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.
Opener “Foiled” is a compelling short-form introduction to the quality of the group’s sound in the final stage of its evolution, a dense track with an unexpectedly strong and propulsive rhythm. It is the longer pieces, however, where Yellow Swans’ true strengths are on display. “Limited Space” is a career high for the duo, a distillation of the sound Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel have arrived at after emerging from the noise underground and delving further into the deep listening atmospherics of their current incarnation. A steady rhythm grounds the proceedings as the track evolves — or devolves — through a series of discrete, purposeful gestures. The closing title track is as good a final send-off as any, merging Yellow Swans’ trademark billows of ominous feedback with a cinematic sense of texture and a perfectly plotted compositional structure.
Despite their sound’s aesthetic evolution, steadily perfected on their major studio releases beginning with Bring The Neon War Home in 2004, it’s unfair to say that Yellow Swans have mellowed out or betrayed their noise roots. Going Places is one of the heaviest, haziest, and densest records you’re likely to hear in any genre. It also fulfills one of the promises of Yellow Swans career that was most apparent in their live shows — namely, a marriage between the liberation of pure noise and the intellectual appeal of headier, more sophisticated experimental electronic practices. It’s disappointing to see a decade-long partnership as fruitful as Swanson and Mindel’s dissolve, but the fact that they have gone out on top with Going Places offers some comfort.