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Album Review
To Be Kind

To Be Kind
by Swans

Mute/Young Gods

Review Date
3rd June 2014
Reviewed by
Paul Larsen

Don’t call it a comeback. The second coming of New York experimental rockers, Swans is turning into a musical career in its own right with the release of To Be Kind, the follow up to 2012’s uncompromising and acclaimed epic The Seer. For those who were in any way enamoured with the intense brutality of that record, To Be Kind , will come as a welcome second helping with the staple ingredients of menace, anti-structure and chaos returning with gusto.

Clocking in at a shade over two hours, there’s also a massive amount of music to digest amongst To Be Kind’s, demented smorgasbord of sound. Even after repeated listens, the listener is more likely to only remember snippets rather than tracks. The maniacal mantra of “TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTURE!” from 30 minute marathon ‘Bring the Sun / Toussaint L’Ouverture’, the stuttering funk-groove of ‘Oxygen’ or the weightless, off key vocals of closer, ‘To be Kind’ will become the handholds you’ll reach for the second and third time you venture into the record.

While it’s certainly a menacing and at times unwieldy listen, To Be Kind is also rewarding in the way a 40 minute “long” player could never be. With a bigger canvas, front man and song writer, Michael Gira (who also produced the record) can be simultaneously liberal and frugal in his application of sound and texture. Chaotic wall-of-noise sections are deliberately placed alongside sparse electronic fills and empty vocal sections. The result is confusing and cluttered up close, but take enough steps back and the fragments begin to form something of a masterpiece.


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