Swans – To Be Kind
Swans have consistently offered the most brutal of listening endurance tests with the maniacal Michael Gira spitting blood and venom at the wheel. This laudable commitment to extremity has its roots in the early 1980s downtown New York rock community but, on the evidence of To Be Kind, Gira and co. have thoroughly outlasted and outperformed their atonal contemporaries and honed their hostile grind into a sinewy and slinky onslaught of light and shade.
The album displays much more diversity than its immediate predecessors; hear the brass-infused near-merriment of Oxygen, the skittering synths and chants of A Little God In My Hands, the accelerated chainsaw gang menace of opener Screen Shot or the seductive ambience of Kirsten Supine, replete with self-combustion outro.
Despite the two-hour plus running time, Swans appear to be – gasp! – enjoying themselves; they’re still staring into the abyss but the abyss is no longer staring back. Anyway, never mind the length, feel and breathe the quality.