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on 20 November 2015
Swans do everything right on this release. It still retains the immense heaviness of earlier records like Filth and Cop but incorporates some more melodic but no less dark passages, mostly provided by the vocals of Jarboe. 5 stars.
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This compilation chronologically precedes Various Failures, containing music recorded in 1986 and 1987. Most of the first two World of Skin albums are here plus Children of God, the work on which the band's transition from brutal industrial noise to a softer & seductive but deeply subversive style found true expression. New Mind and Beautiful Child are the only harsh numbers harking back to their earlier work; elsewhere the mood is one of resignation or sorrow over mostly gentle instrumentation.

The music is infused with mood and tension through remarkable arrangements like the beautiful melodic Like A Drug (Sha La La La). The overall theme appears to be the futility of love as manifested in seemingly gentle but emotionally charged songs like Our Love Lies, You're Not Real Girl, Real Love and Blind Love. Fans of dark, eerie music will love this work as it explores a side of the melancholy worldview that to some degree inheres in or finds repeated expression in the work of artists like Nick Cave, Peter Murphy, Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake, Nico, Velvet Underground, John Cale etc., while it also partakes of the solemnity of sacred medieval music. In subtly insidious ways Children of God encapsulates this `gothic' mood `in extremis.'

Swans is an acquired taste but for those who understand or are attuned & who are not repelled but recognize the music's cathartic power and/or the serenity that sorrow brings or the elegance of melancholy, they're very special. If this 2-disc compilation appeals to you, you might also want to investigate some of their other masterpieces like The Burning World or Love of Life.

The second disc blends the two (World of) Skin albums Blood, Women, Roses, of 1987 and Shame, Humility, Revenge of 1988 in a way that finally individuates the personality of this collaboration between Michael Gira & Jarboe. The music for both albums was recorded in London from October to December 1986. As separate works, the first had Jarboe on lead vocal and the second Gira. The sequence of tracks on this CD integrates the two so that the voices of J and MG alternate most of the time.

The result is astonishing, an example of a confluence that becomes more than the sum of its parts, revealing a multidimensional aesthetic and previously obscured profundity in the work of WoS. Even more interesting is that, although some themes overlap, the tone and the texture are significantly different from those of the first disc. In other words, these little known songs preceded those of Children of God that were recorded in Cornwall during February & March 1987. The instruments used are piano, keyboards, cello, piano, strings, violins, viola, double bass, acoustic guitar, Indian oboe, drum programming and `sounds.'

Disc 2 opens with Jarboe's restrained 1000 Years which is followed by Gira's Everything at Once where electronic buzzing heralds his layered vocals & then contributes to a cohesive sound collage in which strumming guitars play a prominent role. One of the two covers on the Blood album, Cry Me A River, in its delicate treatment by Jarboe now has a stronger impact when succeeded by MG's Breathing Water with its extraordinary instrumentation & its theme that echo Swans albeit in a more humane, less harsh articulation. The simultaneously sinister & sorrowful My Buried Child on The Great Annihilator is the sequel to Blood on your Hands. Both of them are chant-like intonations, Blood being slow and mournful, a wail with a menacing undertone, while Child is an urgent, uptempo chant. But they are both lullabies ...

Nowhere else does Gira sound as human as on the absorbing Nothing Without You; subdued strains of moaning - as in John Berryman's line: "making a mild sound, softer than a moan" - are joined by MG's whispers and genuine tenderness, an emotion not usually associated with him. Not even on the third World of Skin album Ten Songs for Another World where his contributions mostly reflect the morbid and the malevolent.

The powerful sequence of tracks 10 to 12: Turned to Stone, Cold Bed & 24 Hours first suffers his world-weary groan, then the mix of droning wordless vocal, violins & resonating viola embellished by piano & keyboard patterns takes over, eventually subsiding for Jarboe's lengthy introduction to MG's voice which then rises strong, hard & almost shouting on the Swans-like 24 Hours. This is majestic music indeed. The tinkling sounds of Red Rose contrast sharply with Jarboe's multitracked alto/contralto and the dissonant atonal eruptions, whilst One Small Sacrifice calls to mind the first disc's Our Love Lies, that final word-sound on spiritual exhaustion.

Jarboe's Still a Child starts with chilling beats and echoes that are soon transformed into chiming that accentuates her bluesy `Lady Day' delivery. The WoS excursion concludes with MG's The Center of your Heart where her choral backing vocals form ghostly cadences with his soft and gentle speaking voice. There is a different tone & texture to World of Skin, unlike anything that either of them has done before or since. The sound shares a mournful spirituality with Children of God but the expression of it resonates to a tone that is all its own. How lovely to compare the two tonalities, so seemingly close yet so remote.

Michael Gira has explored many styles, from the obliquely brutal metallic mayhem of early Swans through tuneful folk, dark rock, drones & ambient excursions to complex orchestral compositions. His post-Swans project Angels of Light reflects the same talent contained in these discs but is more accessible and digestible as the extremes associated with Swans are not the music's driving force. I highly recommend albums like New Mother,How I Loved You and We Are Him.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This compilation chronologically precedes Various Failures, containing music recorded in 1986 and 1987. Most of the first two World of Skin albums are here plus Children of God, the work on which the band's transition from brutal industrial noise to a softer & seductive but deeply subversive style found true expression. New Mind and Beautiful Child are the only harsh numbers harking back to their earlier work; elsewhere the mood is one of resignation or sorrow over mostly gentle instrumentation.

The music is infused with mood and tension through remarkable arrangements like the beautiful melodic Like A Drug (Sha La La La). The overall theme appears to be the futility of love as manifested in seemingly gentle but emotionally charged songs like Our Love Lies, You're Not Real Girl, Real Love and Blind Love. Fans of dark, eerie music will love this work as it explores a side of the melancholy worldview that to some degree inheres in or finds repeated expression in the work of artists like Nick Cave, Peter Murphy, Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake, Nico, Velvet Underground, John Cale etc., while it also partakes of the solemnity of sacred medieval music. In subtly insidious ways Children of God encapsulates this `gothic' mood `in extremis.'

Swans is an acquired taste but for those who understand or are attuned & who are not repelled but recognize the music's cathartic power and/or the serenity that sorrow brings or the elegance of melancholy, they're very special. If this 2-disc compilation appeals to you, you might also want to investigate some of their other masterpieces like The Burning World or Love of Life.

The second disc blends the two (World of) Skin albums Blood, Women, Roses, of 1987 and Shame, Humility, Revenge of 1988 in a way that finally individuates the personality of this collaboration between Michael Gira & Jarboe. The music for both albums was recorded in London from October to December 1986. As separate works, the first had Jarboe on lead vocal and the second Gira. The sequence of tracks on this CD integrates the two so that the voices of J and MG alternate most of the time.

The result is astonishing, an example of a confluence that becomes more than the sum of its parts, revealing a multidimensional aesthetic and previously obscured profundity in the work of WoS. Even more interesting is that, although some themes overlap, the tone and the texture are significantly different from those of the first disc. In other words, these little known songs preceded those of Children of God that were recorded in Cornwall during February & March 1987. The instruments used are piano, keyboards, cello, piano, strings, violins, viola, double bass, acoustic guitar, Indian oboe, drum programming and `sounds.'

Disc 2 opens with Jarboe's restrained 1000 Years which is followed by Gira's Everything at Once where electronic buzzing heralds his layered vocals & then contributes to a cohesive sound collage in which strumming guitars play a prominent role. One of the two covers on the Blood album, Cry Me A River, in its delicate treatment by Jarboe now has a stronger impact when succeeded by MG's Breathing Water with its extraordinary instrumentation & its theme that echo Swans albeit in a more humane, less harsh articulation. The simultaneously sinister & sorrowful My Buried Child on The Great Annihilator is the sequel to Blood on your Hands. Both of them are chant-like intonations, Blood being slow and mournful, a wail with a menacing undertone, while Child is an urgent, uptempo chant. But they are both lullabies ...

Nowhere else does Gira sound as human as on the absorbing Nothing Without You; subdued strains of moaning - as in John Berryman's line: "making a mild sound, softer than a moan" - are joined by MG's whispers and genuine tenderness, an emotion not usually associated with him. Not even on the third World of Skin album Ten Songs for Another World where his contributions mostly reflect the morbid and the malevolent.

The powerful sequence of tracks 10 to 12: Turned to Stone, Cold Bed & 24 Hours first suffers his world-weary groan, then the mix of droning wordless vocal, violins & resonating viola embellished by piano & keyboard patterns takes over, eventually subsiding for Jarboe's lengthy introduction to MG's voice which then rises strong, hard & almost shouting on the Swans-like 24 Hours. This is majestic music indeed. The tinkling sounds of Red Rose contrast sharply with Jarboe's multitracked alto/contralto and the dissonant atonal eruptions, whilst One Small Sacrifice calls to mind the first disc's Our Love Lies, that final word-sound on spiritual exhaustion.

Jarboe's Still a Child starts with chilling beats and echoes that are soon transformed into chiming that accentuates her bluesy `Lady Day' delivery. The WoS excursion concludes with MG's The Center of your Heart where her choral backing vocals form ghostly cadences with his soft and gentle speaking voice. There is a different tone & texture to World of Skin, unlike anything that either of them has done before or since. The sound shares a mournful spirituality with Children of God but the expression of it resonates to a tone that is all its own. How lovely to compare the two tonalities, so seemingly close yet so remote.

Jarboe's 2004 compilation album contains rare World of Skin material like Everything for Maria (dedicated to Maria Callas), Mystery of Faith, a version of Nick Drake's Black Eyed Dog, Still A Child and Dream Dream plus studio & live versions of The Man I Love. They are solemn; only Jarboe can put a chill into George & Ira. Many hidden treasures grace this work A Mystery of Faith: Unreleased Pieces: Swans + World of Skin.

Michael Gira has explored many styles, from the obliquely brutal metallic mayhem of early Swans through tuneful folk, dark rock, drones & ambient excursions to complex orchestral compositions. His post-Swans project Angels of Light reflects the same talent contained in these discs but is more accessible and digestible as the extremes associated with Swans are not the music's driving force. I highly recommend albums like New Mother,How I Loved You and We Are Him.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This compilation chronologically precedes Various Failures, containing music recorded in 1986 and 1987. Most of the first two World of Skin albums are here plus Children of God, the work on which the band's transition from brutal industrial noise to a softer & seductive but deeply subversive style found true expression. New Mind and Beautiful Child are the only harsh numbers harking back to their earlier work; elsewhere the mood is one of resignation or sorrow over mostly gentle instrumentation.

The music is infused with mood and tension through remarkable arrangements like the beautiful melodic Like A Drug (Sha La La La). The overall theme appears to be the futility of love as manifested in seemingly gentle but emotionally charged songs like Our Love Lies, You're Not Real Girl, Real Love and Blind Love. Fans of dark, eerie music will love this work as it explores a side of the melancholy worldview that to some degree inheres in or finds repeated expression in the work of artists like Nick Cave, Peter Murphy, Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake, Nico, Velvet Underground, John Cale etc., while it also partakes of the solemnity of sacred medieval music. In subtly insidious ways Children of God encapsulates this `gothic' mood `in extremis.'

Swans is an acquired taste but for those who understand or are attuned & who are not repelled but recognize the music's cathartic power and/or the serenity that sorrow brings or the elegance of melancholy, they're very special. If this 2-disc compilation appeals to you, you might also want to investigate some of their other masterpieces like The Burning World or Love of Life.

The second disc blends the two (World of) Skin albums Blood, Women, Roses, of 1987 and Shame, Humility, Revenge of 1988 in a way that finally individuates the personality of this collaboration between Michael Gira & Jarboe. The music for both albums was recorded in London from October to December 1986. As separate works, the first had Jarboe on lead vocal and the second Gira. The sequence of tracks on this CD integrates the two so that the voices of J and MG alternate most of the time.

The result is astonishing, an example of a confluence that becomes more than the sum of its parts, revealing a multidimensional aesthetic and previously obscured profundity in the work of WoS. Even more interesting is that, although some themes overlap, the tone and the texture are significantly different from those of the first disc. In other words, these little known songs preceded those of Children of God that were recorded in Cornwall during February & March 1987. The instruments used are piano, keyboards, cello, piano, strings, violins, viola, double bass, acoustic guitar, Indian oboe, drum programming and `sounds.'

Disc 2 opens with Jarboe's restrained 1000 Years which is followed by Gira's Everything at Once where electronic buzzing heralds his layered vocals & then contributes to a cohesive sound collage in which strumming guitars play a prominent role. One of the two covers on the Blood album, Cry Me A River, in its delicate treatment by Jarboe now has a stronger impact when succeeded by MG's Breathing Water with its extraordinary instrumentation & its theme that echo Swans albeit in a more humane, less harsh articulation. The simultaneously sinister & sorrowful My Buried Child on The Great Annihilator is the sequel to Blood on your Hands. Both of them are chant-like intonations, Blood being slow and mournful, a wail with a menacing undertone, while Child is an urgent, uptempo chant. But they are both lullabies ...

Nowhere else does Gira sound as human as on the absorbing Nothing Without You; subdued strains of moaning - as in John Berryman's line: "making a mild sound, softer than a moan" - are joined by MG's whispers and genuine tenderness, an emotion not usually associated with him. Not even on the third World of Skin album Ten Songs for Another World where his contributions mostly reflect the morbid and the malevolent.

The powerful sequence of tracks 10 to 12: Turned to Stone, Cold Bed & 24 Hours first suffers his world-weary groan, then the mix of droning wordless vocal, violins & resonating viola embellished by piano & keyboard patterns takes over, eventually subsiding for Jarboe's lengthy introduction to MG's voice which then rises strong, hard & almost shouting on the Swans-like 24 Hours. This is majestic music indeed. The tinkling sounds of Red Rose contrast sharply with Jarboe's multitracked alto/contralto and the dissonant atonal eruptions, whilst One Small Sacrifice calls to mind the first disc's Our Love Lies, that final word-sound on spiritual exhaustion.

Jarboe's Still a Child starts with chilling beats and echoes that are soon transformed into chiming that accentuates her bluesy `Lady Day' delivery. The WoS excursion concludes with MG's The Center of your Heart where her choral backing vocals form ghostly cadences with his soft and gentle speaking voice. There is a different tone & texture to World of Skin, unlike anything that either of them has done before or since. The sound shares a mournful spirituality with Children of God but the expression of it resonates to a tone that is all its own. How lovely to compare the two tonalities, so seemingly close yet so remote.

Michael Gira has explored many styles, from the obliquely brutal metallic mayhem of early Swans through tuneful folk, dark rock, drones & ambient excursions to complex orchestral compositions. His post-Swans project Angels of Light reflects the same talent contained in these discs but is more accessible and digestible as the extremes associated with Swans are not the music's driving force. I highly recommend albums like New Mother,How I Loved You and We Are Him.
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on 2 June 2004
i used to listen to these albums back in my old Goth days, and always loved them -so wondered if they stood the test of time. they do. m.gira is still as powerful as he was and jarboe still infused with haunting beauty. the music was experimental - Foetus was the main similarity that springs to mind - the lyrics dark and moody, maintaining that edge they were known for. not easy listening, and not one for a sunday afternoon, but if you appreciate good music and are not afraid of the shadows, then this will do for you.
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on 29 December 2014
Son loved it
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