The Burning World pays tribute to author Paul Bowles as is evident from titles like Let It Come Down and the mention of "sheltering sky" in the lyric of Saved. It's a work of great beauty and wide accessibility, being the one Swans work that ought to appeal to musical tastes ranging from Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Joy Division to the fans of atmospheric rock and even eastern-influenced world music.
The style has been called über-folk; acoustics guitars and strings - violin, viola and cello - are prominent while the tabla is one of the main contributors to the engaging rhythmic textures. Judging by the quality of the melodies, lyrics and arrangements, The Burning World is one of the most outstanding works of the 1980s.
Swans mark I disbanded in the late 90s with an impressive legacy of own albums and side-projects like World of Skin. An acquired taste, the band has on various albums explored extreme emotions through extreme music.
Their early 1980s work explored harsh industrial/extreme heavy metal sounds, then Children of God (1987) blended softness & severity whilst Love Of Life & White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (both 1991) & Great Annihilator (1995) provided powerful guitar rock and Soundtracks For The Blind (1996) investigated the drone & atmospheric electronics.
Underneath the tuneful songs and gentle delivery of Burning World runs an undercurrent of melancholia and desolation which turns to utter despair on the devastating God Damn The Sun where Michael Gira out-Cohens Leonard on a tale of woe set to a churning seductive tune.
Hauntingly sung by Jarboe, their cover of Steve Winwood's Can't Find My Way Home equals their two interpretations of Love Will Tear Us Apart. Jarboe's tremulous vocals reinforce the oneiric feel of I Remember Who You Are whilst the tabla lends a hypnotic quality to Mona Lisa, Mother Earth. The beautiful lilting love song Saved blends the wry and the romantic in an arresting way.
After the demise of Swans, Michael Gira would explore terrain not too far removed from The Burning World in his Angels of Light project which created masterpieces like New Mother and How I Loved You.