To Be Kind
In the few years since Michael Gira reactivated Swans, the legendary gothic noise band has stunned audiences with ecstatically pulverizing live shows and recorded The Seer, a sprawling collection that stands alongside its best work.
To Be Kind is another double-disc effort that delivers hypnotic and primal slabs of sound, upping the ante on its predecessor by offering more variety, texture and immediacy without sacrificing any rapturous savagery. There’s the sinuous blues belly-crawl of “Just A Little Boy,” which alternately slithers and swaggers, undercutting its bravado with an eerie laugh track. “Some Things We Do” uses sighing strings to underline its incantatory recitation. “Oxygen” expertly mixes coruscating punk riffs and propulsive grooves. St. Vincent’s backing vocals add seductive flair to the luxuriously doom-struck “Kirsten Supine.”
The centerpiece is the hammering onslaught of “Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture,” which alternately sounds like a thundering herd of mythic stallions and an unraveling orchestra. Imagine Nick Cave sculpting sound at the scale of Richard Sera and you’re part way there. To Be Kind is a genuinely monumental effort, full of tilts and torque, and hewn to endure.