Release Date: Mar 2, 2010
Record label: Type
Genre(s): Rock, Electronic, Experimental
When a band breaks up, it's tempting to hear their final record through the filter of hindsight-- to imagine they subconsciously knew their future was finite and planted hints in the music. But what if they actually did know? That was the case for the noise/drone duo Yellow Swans, who made most of Going Places after deciding to disband in 2008. So if you hear a sense of finality, reflection, or even fate in this album, that impression has some basis in fact.
Released after the duo formally called it a day, Yellow Swans' literal swan song found the two still exploring their way through often majestic drone -- if the roots of the band had always been as much in uncontrolled experimentation as in serene contemplation, here the two sides found a fine fusion. It's evident from the start with "Foiled," where a buried mantra of a melody is surrounded by cascades of feedback and rhythmic, quick-paced sonics that feel like being caught in the world's biggest washing machine. It sets the general tone for the rest of the album, as the contrast -- simple but devastatingly effective -- of scraggly aural squalor and a looming sense of near-romantic melancholy plays out.
Nearly two years after they announced plans to breakup, the members of pioneering American noise duo Yellow Swans have released their final record. The deep irony of the record's title, Going Places, is no doubt intentional. It reflects not only the expanded sonic palette that Yellow Swans explore on their swan song but also the fact that the group broke up just as it seemed its convincing brand of free noise was going to have a shot at an overground breakthrough.
Depending on your disposition, you might be tempted to read the title of Yellow Swans’ final album Going Places as either a bitter joke or an optimistic embrace of the future. The suggestion that the members of one of the most high-profile, prolific acts in the already horrifically prolific realm of noise might be moving on to bigger and better things without the rewards of a solid, proven b(r)and name could go either way. Indeed, it’s uncertain whether future projects that Gabriel Mindel Salomon and Peter Swanson undertake individually or as part of groups can reach the aesthetic heights or attention Yellow Swans did over the last decade, but the fairly unceremonious way in which they brought the duo to an end — abrupt announcement with no tour in support of this album — coupled with tracks titled “Opt Out” and “New Life” give the impression that matching or besting past accomplishments isn’t on their minds.
The final LP from the Portland noise/improve duo Yellow Swans has titles indicating either that they feel trapped (“Foiled”, “Limited Space”), or that they’ve decided to change course and look forward to the future (“Opt Out”, “New Life”, “Going Places”). That’s the nature of titles for instrumental music. They work as framing devices, whether the intention is joking or serious.