Cinemartyr Aren’t Afraid to Step on Hallowed Ground

Back in the early days of the pandemic, we introduced you to New York-via-Ireland “sombre experimental rock” band Cinemartyr, their then-impending album Death of the First Person and its lead video/single “Stab City” here. A few months back, the band released its sixth album, OPT OUT which they describe as “more lean, direct and industrial” while going on to list off “Fugazi, Arab On Radar, Daughters, Whores, Retox, Health, Death Grips, Sun Kil Moon, Rihanna, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Johann Johannsson” as influences and inspirations. One name that is suspiciously and surprisingly missing from this list is Swans. That omission may have been gross oversight or deliberate in the knowledge that a cover of the legendary band’s “New Mind” was coming down the pipeline. Taken from Swans’ Hall of Fame-inducted 1987 album Children of God (get a copy and read all about it here), “New Mind” is one of the lower east side kings/queen most recognisable tunes and one which bridges the two distinct phases of the band’s career. It’s a classic, Cinemartyr knows it and as such, band leader Shane Harrington provided us with this reasoning for tackling the song in the first place:

“You do NOT cover Swans. It’s kind of a stupid idea to cover a band that makes such monumental work. But it was the original music video for ‘New Mind’ that gave me the idea to attempt it. I’m not sure what Michael Gira thinks of that material now. I know he once refereed to his back catalog as ‘detritus’ and he’s probably not a fan of the music video itself. I can relate to that, but I also couldn’t shake off the idea of covering/reinterpreting the song. The main chord work is so simple but so effective and heavy. The process of studying and reworking it was very informative and educational for me as I have a tendency to maximize and overpack my arrangements. I had so much fun practicing minimalism and keeping the cover lean and more or less riff-free. I loved the idea of having Amber take on Michael Gira’s vocals and do her own thing within that template and I think she totally killed it. The music too was contorted into a more traditional verse/chorus/bridge framework, almost like sampling or collaging some of the original elements. In the end I hope it serves to honor and thank Swans and Gira for their incredibly inspirational output over the years.”

For more info on Cinemartyr, their body of work, six albums and upcoming gigs, check out the usual online spots: