M. Gira, Drainland

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 11.27.11 in Reviews


Swans Related Project: M. Gira
An unsparing self-portrait of the artist as an ugly man

Does Michael Gira ever sleep? In 1995, having wrapped up The Great Annihilator (and toured in support of it), and about to embark upon the sprawling, soul-draining collage project Soundtracks for the Blind, he somehow found time to release Drainland, a solo album featuring contributions from Jarboe and Bill Rieflin, recorded mostly at the latter’s Seattle home. (Reflecting Gira’s fondness for dichotomy, Jarboe released her own solo album, Sacrificial Cake, as a companion piece.) Without Swans’ gale-force rhythm section behind him, Drainland is a quieter, more intimate record, characterized by hypnotically strummed guitars, chiming bells and eerie swirls of synthesizer and sound effects; singing and muttering through what sounds like a permanently fixed grimace, Gira sounds not so much restrained as numb. It’s a bitter and at times bilious album, an unsparing self-portrait of the artist as an ugly man: In the very first song, a tape recording captures Jarboe confronting Gira over his growing alcoholism, and his spontaneous, slurred counterattack is far more unsettling than any of his customary invocations of hellfire and damnation.