Swans – To Be Kind

Swans is a band that demands much from its listeners and their newest album, To Be Kind, is no different. Swans has been around for a number of decades and has gone through several incarnations. At first they were loosely associated with post-punk, but their sound was much too loud, and was closer to what could be considered sludge if it had existed in the 80s. After they reformed in 2010, they have taken on a more experimental/progressive rock sound that is still distinctly their own. To Be Kind follows in the style of their previous album, The Seer, but it is darker and more chaotic. This album clocks in at just over two hours, so it is quite a journey. Michael Gira and company crafted a very diverse and intricate album, which makes it very difficult for me to describe in words; it appears futile to even attempt. To put it simply, it is quite experimental, erratic, dark, and at times mystical. Vocalist Michael Gira would be singing one moment, then a few minutes later, he is yelling randomly, then the next he is chanting, or yelling in French, as heard on the grandiose thirty-four minute long, Bring the Sun / Toussaint L’Ouverture. Swans utilizes two drummers, who include Thor Harris, who also plays for Shearwater, and Phil Puleo, which further adds to the chaos on this album. Many of the songs build with hypnotizing repetition. Screen Shot opens the album with some repetitive and mechanical guitar and drums as the song builds up to chaos. Just a Little Boy plods along as Gira randomly yells and does numerous things vocally. A Little God in My Hands carries on in a jazz-like marching beat repetitively. She Loves Us, Oxygen and Nathalie Neal are other chaotic songs with Gira’s chanting and yelling, accompanied by random instrumentation that feels like being in a psychotic circus. Some Things We Do changes the pace with a slow track with violin and quite a creepy atmosphere. Kirsten Supine also has a creepy atmosphere that builds with drums and bells until it subsides just as the chaos is about to erupt. Finally, after a feverish two hours, To Be Kind comes to a close with what begins as a dark, brooding and atmospheric title track before bursts of chaotic drums put this album to rest. Swans has crafted another stellar album in this new era for the band–an album that will be difficult to top. Much is going on over the course of this album, so it may be difficult get a grasp of it, but it will certainly be a rewarding experience, and be among the top albums of 2014.

Genre: Experimental, Progressive Rock
Country: USA
Label: Young God Records
Release: May 12, 2014

1. Screen Shot
2. Just a Little Boy
3. A Little God in My Hands
4. Bring the Sun / Toussaint L’Ouverture
5. Some Things We Do
6. She Loves Us
7. Kirsten Supine
8. Oxygen
9. Nathalie Neal
10. To Be Kind

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