Swans – To Be Kind (2014)

February 14, 2015
Swans – To Be Kind (2014)

A recurring theme in my posting to Lines In Wax is my reluctance to approach my absolute favourite bands. I eventually get to it with most of them (look how many Agoraphobic Nosebleed posts I’ve done!) but with Swans I always hit that wall. How in the fuck am I supposed to describe this album in only so many words?

I was still getting my head around The Seer when To Be Kind was announced. In a press release, Michael Gira stated something along the lines that this new album will be as long as it needs to be, and with live versions of “The Seer” mashed up with “Bring The Sun” and “Toussaint L’ouverture” reaching nearly an hour in length, I was expecting To Be Kind to be a bigger, badder, mind-boggling big brother to The Seer. But it wasn’t.

Instead, what I believe we have here, is the much calmer and more refined sequel to The Seer. A gentle, elegant older sister, rather than a snarling big brother. It’s actually a little bit shorter than it’s predecessor. I’m not saying that it lacks at all in what Swans do best (total sonic transcendence / annihilation), you just need to spin the unfathomable epic “Bring The Sun” to confirm that; it’s a track that builds and builds (and builds and builds) with maddening repetition to ride a crest of an all-consuming musical orgasm. Personally, I feel sorry for the drummer(s), and slightly more long term – my ears. But, man it’s good. No, what differentiates To Be Kind from The Seer is the aching passages of calm moments in between the sheer walls of aural bliss, accentuated and kept plodding mostly by a much more prominent presence of the bass guitar. The bass playing on this album is absolutely fucking phenomenal (check “Oxygen”), and the songs seem to be built more around bass grooves rather than repetitive guitar leads.

My favourite tracks are “Just A Little Boy” (which takes a while to get going but has the most epic ending sequence ever), the previously mentioned “Bring The Sun / Toussant L’ouverture” (the 34 minute centerpiece to this circus of insanity), the maddening bass verses brass  frenzy of “Oxygen” and the ultimate duality of the title track, with it’s  love/hate, hot/cold, creation/destruction kinda vibe as it folds from sheets of sheer bliss into cataclysmic free form noise and destruction.

Like I said, words can only describe so much. Play this as loud as you possibly can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *