The Burning World (album)
|The Burning World|
|Studio album by Swans|
|Singles from Swans|
The Burning World is the sixth studio album by American experimental rock band Swans. It was released in 1989, through record label Uni Records; the band's only major label release. Co-produced by Bill Laswell and band leader Michael Gira, the album features a major stylistic shift from their past releases, being very tuneful and accessible compared to the bleak, industrialized sound from their past records. It received a mixed reception and was a commercial disappointment; the band was dropped off the record label following its poor performance.
Background and music
Following the unexpected popularity of the band's cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," the band signed to Uni Records, owned by MCA Inc. (now Universal Music). Due to Uni's insistence, Swans leader Michael Gira co-produced the album with bass guitarist Bill Laswell. During the recording sessions, Swans, which consisted of Gira, Jarboe and Norman Westberg at that time, were accompanied by Laswell on bass guitar, as well as a series of session musicians on "multicultural instruments." According to Gira, the album was recorded "piecemeal, with no communication between musicians."
The Burning World marks a radical shift in the band's musical style, as Swans eschewed their previous aggressive, brutal sound and "fully embraced the dark Americana they flirted with on their previous album, Children of God. The album's style has been described as "acoustic-folk" and "'world music' rock with electric shadings." Laswell's production work also weights on the album's sound, with "a much more somber, elegiac approach to music-making." The album also features duets between Gira and Jarboe. According to Thom Jurek of AllMusic, guitarist Norman Westberg "played as much acoustic guitar as electric guitar on the record" and Jarboe’s keyboards mostly "floated through the mix."
Despite appreciating Laswell's production work in general, Gira was critical of the album. In 2011, he stated: "I abhor that record. Bill Laswell is a very good producer, but we didn't mesh well. I was intimidated and sang in this cramped, monotone way. It didn't sell, and we got dropped." The album was reissued on CD by Water Records in 2012. Despite Gira's reservations about the record, the track "God Damn The Sun" has remained a favourite in his solo performances.
The album received mixed to positive reviews from music critics, who often criticized Bill Laswell's production. AllMusic wrote, "Ultimately, Burning sounds more like a compromised major label Laswell project than a Swans album, to its overall detriment", calling the album a "general disappointment". On the other hand, Trouser Press was favorable, writing: "The Burning World benefits a great deal from the world music instrumentation and structural abilities Laswell brings to it. The arrangements are uniformly strong, the gentler sounds don't strike one as a compromise and the cover of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" is both apt and surprising", ultimately calling the album "a nice one that's almost as haunting as it wants to be." Rosemary Passatino of Spin praised the album, commenting: "Shockingly, Burning World is unbashedly pretty as it is dark." She also described the album as "elegant" and "surprisingly tender."
While the album reportedly sold only 5,000 copies in the United Kingdom, the single "Saved" enjoyed relative success, peaking at number 20 on the U.S. College Radio charts and number 28 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart, respectively. Following the commercial disappointment of the album, the band was dropped from Uni Records.
|1.||"The River that Runs with Love Won't Run Dry"||4:16|
|2.||"Let it Come Down"||4:28|
|3.||"Can't Find My Way Home" (Blind Faith cover)||4:48|
|4.||"Mona Lisa, Mother Earth"||4:16|
|5.||"(She's A) Universal Emptiness"||4:02|
|7.||"I Remember Who You Are"||4:24|
|8.||"Jane Mary, Cry One Tear"||3:51|
|9.||"See No More"||5:30|
|10.||"God Damn the Sun"||4:23|
|Total length:||22:19 (44:09)|
- Michael Gira – vocals, guitar, production, album cover concept and design
- Jarboe – vocals, keyboards
- Norman Westberg – guitar
- Jason Asnes – bass guitar
- Virgil Moorefield – drums
- Nicky Skopelitis – bağlama, bouzouki
- L. Shankar – double violin
- Fred Frith – violin
- Jeff Bova – keyboards
- Aïyb Dieng – percussion
- Trilok Gurtu – tabla
- Bernard Fowler – background vocals
- Fred Fowler – background vocals
- Karl Berger – vibraphone, string arrangement, conducting
- Mark Feldman – violin
- Larry Packer – violin
- John Kass – viola
- Richard Carr – viola
- Garo Yellin – cello
- Bill Laswell – production, bass guitar
- Bruce Calder – recording
- Martin Bisi – recording
- Robert Musso – recording
- Jason Corsaro – mixing
- Oz Fritz – engineering assistance
- Howie Weinberg – mastering
- DZN, The Design Group – sleeve artwork
- Vartan – sleeve art direction
- Wim V. D. Hulst – back cover photography
- Robert Mapplethorpe – front cover photography (Calla Lilly)
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- Mojo (208): 56. March 2011. Missing or empty
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