Astral Swans
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Astral Swans

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Solo Alternative Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"astral swans new canadiana 2014"

From the phantom hymns of Josh Rohs:

Super cheerful poltergeist Matt Swann returns under the guise of Astral Swans. As the first release on Dan Mangan’s Madic Records, this 7” contains a pair of phantom hymns cut from the same cloth as the melancholic psychedelia Swann makes as Extra Happy Ghost!!!, albeit taking a more minimalistic approach. On “You Carry a Sickness”, his unembellished vocals float atop a spectral reverie, anchored by sparse percussion and permeated by rays of ’60s-organ sunshine. “Park Street” is an even starker outing, complete with a sample of the late Chris Reimer’s “Truck Middle” that hums and buzzes throughout like some audible form of cosmic background radiation. Take a minute to get lost in the ether — I’ll meet you on the astral plane. -


Matthew Swann is no stranger to the barren and haunting landscapes of tape hisses, drone groans and dissonant warbles, but where his previous project, extra happy ghost !!!, was predominantly knee-jerk exuberance and stark immediacy, his newest foray into dense, sludgy psychedelia is much more deliberate and meticulous. This 7” is a soft and down-filled siren song, dragging sick sailors onto a frozen lake. In anticipation of his upcoming full-length, Swann debuted this 45 featuring two sinister and macabre tracks filled with the jarring, jangly death-pop for which he’s renowned.

Slinking guitars and off-kilter rim shots usher in the A-side, “You Carry a Sickness,” with soaring vocal harmonies flying overheard as Swann croons “terrible desire” and you start to swoon in time with the spectral sentimentality.

“Nature doesn’t notice you exist at all,” he states, following with a conciliatory “I do,” before the track dissolves. What’s immediately obvious is that while Swann is heading down singer/songwriter territory, he’s ingenious enough to place the atmosphere and sonic miasma ahead of the melody. The result is a deftly composed, razor-sharp hook wrapped in ectoplasmic ecstasy — a ghastly beautiful exhumation of cryptic poetics and dirge-laden, yet comforting singsong. - BeatRoute

"Calgary’s Astral Swans first act signed to Dan Mangan’s new label"

The beginnings of a frenzy? Perhaps eventually and in the larger scheme of things.

But right now, on a smaller level, on a personal level, Calgary musician Matthew Swann will take his record label signing not as a validation of an entire scene but as one of his validation and belief in his talent and abilities.

Well. Sort of.

“Yeah, ‘We want the old, depressed guy,’ ” the veteran local musician jokes with a laugh about the thinking behind his signing. “Actually, it’s flattering that anyone liked it let alone anyone that liked it enough to put it out, and basically construct a label essentially based around this set of songs.”

As he alludes, his one-man, lo-fi, bedsit project, Astral Swans, is the first signed to the new label, Madic Records, which is a partnership between West Coast-based, Juno Award-winning musician Dan Mangan and Canadian tastemakers Arts & Crafts, home to fellow Calgary products Feist and Reuben and the Dark, not to mention Broken Social Scene, of which former local Lisa Lobsinger is a member in great standing.

Swann’s already completed record will be the first album released on Madic later this year, with a two-song, 7-inch sample size (You Carry A Sickness/Park Street) being dropped Tuesday by the label — all of which getting the support and resources of the larger A & C.

“It’s funny because I couldn’t get anyone else to listen to it and all of a sudden I get this random call from out of the blue,” Swann says.

That call was from Mangan, himself, who Swann had met a few years back when he was a member of city pop outfit Hot Little Rocket. The pair had kept in touch over the years, with Mangan sometimes crashing on his couch when he was in town or simply chatting with one another when their paths crossed. He stresses, though, that the two weren’t what he would call close friends and didn’t even think he was musically on Mangan’s radar.

“I don’t know what it is about what he heard that triggered this but he heard a couple of songs and he asked if I had more,” he says, noting he then sent over the record he was set to release on his own. “He really liked it, which was flattering. And talks extended from there.”

That was actually just this past December, with a deal being completed quickly and, from his point of view, painlessly. He says helping that was the vibe he got from fellow musician Mangan, who really seemed to get what he was trying to do, the sound he was going for with Astral Swans — an extension, of sorts, of his other acclaimed Calgary outfit Extra Happy Ghost!!!

“I can genuinely say that I feel like he has my best interests at heart, which is comforting,” he says. “I’m kind of terrified of the music industry and sort of terrified of being stuck having to do things. But he’s been great so far, and Arts & Crafts have been great as well. I feel like there’s a lot of freedom. I was never asked to alter a single note off of the already finished record.”

The only real downside to the marriage is that he’ll have to wait even longer for the album to get its release, with fall now being targeted as tentative time of arrival. The reason, Swann was told, was that the summer was considered one of the worst times to properly launch a record and, presumably, a label.

“I don’t know,” he says and laughs. “It’s funny because I’ve released every record that I’ve ever done in the summer and not many people have bought them, so maybe that’s why.”

Calgary concertgoers will get the chance to see the “old, depressed guy” what done good when he opens for Jay Malinowski & The Deadcoast Tuesday at the folk fest’s Festival Hall in Inglewood, and hear what’s to come by picking up the 7-inch from the show or any of your favourite local indie record shops. - Calgary Herald

"Conversations & Transformations with Astral Swans & Dan Mangan"

Vancouver’s dreamboat Dan Mangan realized his dream on March 3 with the creation of his own label, Madic Records, a collaboration with Arts & Crafts. The question on everyone’s mind now is, who is this Astral Swans who has signed as Mangan’s first musician? You may remember Matthew Swann of Astral Swans from Extra Happy Ghost!!! (EHG!!!), an experimental, psychedelic sound worth researching. It might be time to grab a ticket for the Media Club this Saturday (March 22) to check out the buzz at the debut and “You Carry a Sickness”/”Park Street” 7″ release show. To answer some cursory questions, I had an educational three-way (e-mail) with Swann and Mangan to provide the curious with a bit of a pre-show snack.

Vancouver Weekly: What genre would you classify Astral Swans as?

Astral Swans: I wanna call it psychedelic folk, but it’s not really that. It’s maybe easiest to talk about influences. I’m drawing a lot from 60s psych folk – a lot of women performers lately: Karen Dalton, Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan… And I really, really love Sibylle Baier. For dudes: Tim Hardin, Nick Drake, Donovan, etc. But then that gets mixed with a lot of 90s influences: Drag City stuff like Smog, Silver Jews, etc. And I love Sonic Youth and PJ Harvey. I love punk/post-punk too, but it’s less sonically apparent. I wish I could call myself more punk, but I’m really just a hippie.

VW: So why the swap from Extra Happy Ghost!!! to Astral Swans?

AS: Touring solo is cheaper than touring as a band. These songs were all written and arranged to be performed live without a band, which makes it sooo much easier to tour. EHG!!! is still a thing too! I wanna make it heavier, more anti-aesthetic, now that I don’t have to balance it with this more conventional song-based thing.

VW: Astral Swans has been described as ’90s sludge’, and I agree. Do you?

AS: Haha, yeah, I wrote it. [Swann wrote this description in his bio some time ago and has subsequently been labeled by reviewers everywhere as '90s sludge', something of a tongue in cheek self-fulfilled prophecy.]

VW: Tell me about your connection to Dan Mangan. How’d you two get into cahoots?

AS: We were both on [the record label] File Under: Music like six years ago. I played in a post-punk band called Hot Little Rocket, and he was just getting started. Then he became this massive Canadian thing. Dan is a really good human. He’s at a level that’s weird career-wise – like, I know people that adore him, and I know people that think he’s a pussy. It’s funny, he’s reached a level where people project all sorts of shit on him. Haha, to me, Dan is a grounded, genuine dude who works his ass off and doesn’t cheat on his wife, in spite of being adored by legions of admirers. That shit’s rare, and kinda fucking beautiful – but what do I know? I’m a hippie.

Dan Mangan: I am a bit of a pussy sometimes. But fuck me, I’m just a bunch of particles.

VW [directed at Mangan]: The music community is all abuzz over your first signed musician. Why did you chose Astral Swans?

DM: I’ve known Matt for a long time. He’s himself. He doesn’t chase whatever is “working” in popular music. He has an honesty to him that I find really appealing. It comes through in his music.

VW: Give me three adjectives that describe your record, “You Carry a Sickness”/”Park Street”.

AS: Suicide. Nihilism. Laid back.

DM: Echo. Analogue. Alone.

VW: Suicide is repeatedly mentioned in reference to your music. Is that an intentional theme?

AS: It’s informed a lot of my art. A lot of what I write is my own dark.

VW: What is your dream venue? Who would open for you there?

AS: My dream venue was the Canmore Hotel, but they switched management and wouldn’t have me back ’cause I suck at covers, and nobody comes to my shows, haha. I got a form letter. I’d play there again in this thought experiment though! I’d open for Willie Nelson, the Kinks (circa 1967), Townes Van Zandt, Marianne Faithful, Nico, and Ghost (the Japanese Ghost, not the Swedish one). Apparently it’s a festival: Lazer-Eyed-Hulk-Hogan-Fest, and it’s free!

VW: Are you still working at Village Square library? Tell me a library secret or story. Tell me about that job; I find it fascinating.

AS: I love the library. I’ve been with CPL (Calgary Public Library) for six years, and they are incredibly accommodating to artists. I believe deeply in libraries, and universal information accessibility, and all these things that are a part of my job. I also bartend at a rad venue called Commonwealth, and those folks also treat me like gold!!! Serious shout out to both of my employers!!! - Vancouver Weekly


Astral Swans - "You Carry A Sickness". A song of original sin or plain human frailty; the clunk and bloom of everyday activity, of strain and flop, with an organ the same blue-flame shade as on the Doors' "Break On Through". For the purposes of this song, Astral Swans might be God, might be Buddha or Vishnu. Might be a liar with a poet's notebook, or a preacher with a xanax, or just a church worker who's been up for six days, his four-month-old shrieking. This is a good song with a dozen uses, a hundred origin-stories. Use it like plaster of paris: build a cast, a sidewalk slab, a little doorway cherub. - Said the Gramophone

"Disc of the Week: A cohesive, understated effort for this Ghost"

Ghosts, by their very nature, are not contented. They are disembodied, in an ornery state of flux - an unresolved state of transition that results in them being haunting, mischievous and generally frustrated. There are no cheery ghosts, but if there were any, there would be no degree to their happiness, let alone three exclamation points.

Extra Happy Ghost!!! is the project of Calgary's Matthew Swann, a bedroom recorder who has moved on from home electronics for his first full-length album. Modern Horses was made in the studio operated by Chad VanGaalen, the indie-rock superhero who recorded the nine lingering, minimalist, sixties-reverbed tracks of this cohesive, understated black-and-white effort.

The album's closing number is its namesake, a downbeat drone of windy, whirring tape noises, morose he-she vocals and a sparse guitar motif that comes and goes. The song Modern Horses - there are no such things as "modern" horses by the way, just evermore confused ones in an increasingly advanced world - considers a small pack of them who, in their panic of being herded into downtown Calgary, jumped off a bridge in 2005.

"The modern horses," guest singer Laura Leif deadpans, "know how few things they control."

The preceding Haunted House is equally subdued, but with a queer organ and a lone, disembodied voice - the ghost of Dennis Wilson? - at work. Superstition, a broken neck and a "massive harm in the garage" are involved.

Lyrics of Swann's intrigue, though I don't catch all the drifts. Themes of helplessness and chance, I think, play a part. Suffocation, too. "Hypoxia take me down with gentle power," Swann offers slackly on the retro-groovy hazy pop of Mercy Mercy, the word "power" accentuated with a burst of extra-awesome(!!!) echo.

I'm sure I'm giving you the wrong idea about this record, an excellent follow-up to the descriptively titled 2009 EP How the Beach Boys Sound to Those With No Feelings. It's lo-fi, uncluttered, head-nodding existentialism that isn't dreary. Fire on Fire, in fact, is something you could shimmy to lightly.

Neither horses nor ghosts were harmed in the recording. Pitch-correcting software for Swann's vocals was not employed. Drums are simplistic. Guitar solos do not figure, though the saggy strum of j23439 has a bit of a dissonant freak-out to it.

Ghosts aren't happy, Swann probably realizes; the exclamatory emphasis is classic sardonic punctuation. And very few tamed horses are optimistic. People often are, but that doesn't mean they know any better. Modern Horses and Extra Happy Ghost!!! make all the sense in the world after all. - The Globe And Mail


 'All of My Favorite Singers Are Willie Nelson' February 24 on Madic Records.



Matthew Swann recently had a nightmare that he turned into a bucket of straw. He had another in which he saw the universe as constructed of tiny, conscious, malevolent, atoms. The first was dissociated, and impersonal. The second was paranoid. Both were highly distressing. Matthew Swann plays experimental folk music under the name, astral swans. He lives in Calgary, Alberta with a talking horse, constructed from malevolent atoms that eats straw.

Band Members