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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soundtrack For a Hieronymus Bosch Painting
I have been listening to music seriously for more than 50 years and I have never heard anything like this album. It is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, at once violent and soothing, and makes me feel like I am immersed in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

On "To Be Kind", I hear primitive chanting, ghostly passages, insane cackling and other...
Published 5 months ago by John W. Evans

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 90 Straight Minutes of Un-relenting Heaviosity
I am a music fan who has done the totally thinkable: I have aged. And as a consequence, I have lost my primary means of discovering new music: sitting by the radio during the hours of free time while I waited patiently for a life of toil and fatigue to begin. Finally, I'm there! However, without my hours of radio-sitting, and with a job that requires me to use the...
Published 5 months ago by A. Menocal


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soundtrack For a Hieronymus Bosch Painting, July 20, 2014
By 
John W. Evans (La Grande, OR United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
I have been listening to music seriously for more than 50 years and I have never heard anything like this album. It is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, at once violent and soothing, and makes me feel like I am immersed in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

On "To Be Kind", I hear primitive chanting, ghostly passages, insane cackling and other sounds that will remind you that all things are not as we see them... and all sounds are not as we hear them. There are things to be seen and heard that are buried under layers, and on this album, vocalist Michael Gira and Swans strip some of those layers away.

The band creates mesmerizing rhythms that build, fade, and blend into each other as the music swells, dies, and terrifies. The overall effect is one of desperation, bleak landscapes, and hideous hellfire from which there is no escape. This is the aural antithesis of "Christian music". This stuff is absolutely and fantastically subterranean.

If you don't like that sort of thing, stay away. But if you have an open mind for music and appreciate unique, artfully-played experimental sounds... or if you like music that by its nature compels you to contemplate existence, mortality in particular... then you may come to love this album, as I have.

I hear the unrelenting drive of "To Be Kind" telling me I'm now sucked in, and if I want to be kind fo myself, the only exorcism is to hear more music by Swans.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swans do it again- A Masterpiece!, May 18, 2014
This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
To argue that any album is as good as "The Seer", the Swans previous outing, is a risky proposition, but somehow someway, Michael Gira and the latest incarnation of his band have managed to match the intensity and originality of their previous two hour epic with a similar but markedly different new two hour epic.
"To Be Kind" kicks off with what could be mistaken as a Pink Floyd bass line- fluid, engaging, propulsive. Over this, Gira chants a series of one word and two word lines as percussion bangs away and guitars chime, slowly building to a climax that hints at the chaos and intensity to come, but never quite gets there. Titled "Screen Shot", this opening number encapsulates everything that works about this album: slowly building numbers, an orchestra of instruments synchronized or clashing, chaos contrasted with sparse landscapes of beauty, a hard to describe intensity conveyed through sparse lyrics.
The beauty of the opening track is that it pulls the listener in with what could be described as a more mainstream "rock" number before the rest of the album veers off into more experimental territory. "Just A Little Boy" finds Gira tapping into the Dionysian energies of Jim Morrison the singer, while disembodied voices swarm around the plodding instrumentation. The refrain of "I need love" towards the end lends the track an unsettling desperation. "A Little God in My Hands" could be mistaken for a TV on the Radio track thanks to its funk and swagger, though the bursts of noise and chanting push it into Swans territory.
The highlight of the album, and arguably one of the Swans most important pieces, is the 34 minute "Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'Overture", a track that kicks off with an expected Swans assault- guitar, drums, and bass repeating the same aggressive chord over and over and over for what feels like way too long. This eventually dissipates into a quiet storm that spends over ten minutes building in intensity, shouting out praise to "The Sun!" and losing itself (halfway through the track) in a fury of white noise. Once things fall apart, an eerie chaotic calm takes over until the band is once again ready to attack, the sound of urgent sawing and whinnying horses announcing the arrival of the aggressive yet celebratory finish, in which Gira, much like the aforementioned Morrison, sounds like a shaman calling forth all manner of spirits, both good and evil. Terrifying, cathartic, and at times beautiful, "Bring the Sun/Toussaint l'Overture" qualifies as a signature Swans piece and manages to capture the storm of intense emotions with which Gira can imbue any song. Had this been the only track, this still would be a Five Star album. Gira follows this with the five minute "Some Things We Do", a calm, relaxing prayer that is much needed after the intensity of the previous track.
"She Loves Us!" has a progressive rock feel, with hints of King Crimson and Mars Volta in the main repeated riff and layers of additional riffs that are piled on (all of which eventually give way to sonic chaos). "Kirsten Supine", if it was twelve minutes shorter, could qualify as a Nick Cave torch song (that gives way to a Swans style thrashing). "Oxygen" and "Nathalie Neal" both clock in under eleven minutes and provide relatively short, sharp shocks of post-rock aggression, heavy on the drums and guitar riffs. The two hour "To be Kind" experience concludes with the title track, a solemn 'ballad' that makes up in quiet intensity what it lacks in volume or chaos (before giving way to one final burst of volume and chaos).
"To Be Kind" is as awesome, powerful, intimidating, memorable, epic, experimental, and beyond the boundaries of contemporary rock as its predecessor "The Seer" was. Somehow, someway, Micheal Gira and crew have once again managed to deliver an epic two hour masterpiece.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the best, May 13, 2014
This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
If you're already a Swans fan, quit reading, go get this.

If you're new to the Swans, this is a fine place to dive in. "To Be Kind" is the third outing from the current line-up of band members. With 3 albums and years of touring, these road-tested veterans have emerged as the most cohesive incarnation of the Swans to date. And dare I say it, they even sound like a rock band now. While Swans have always been able to challenge the volume and intensity of anyone, their songs have rarely 'rocked'. They've pummeled, they've bludgeoned, and they've rejoiced, but they haven't rocked like this before. Post-rock maybe, but not rock & roll. Though this album is by no means light, I can almost hear the band enjoying themselves.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How did I never hear of this band until now?!, October 9, 2014
This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
A lot of my recent music purchases lately have been out of admiration for older musicians and bands that are still going strong in their 50s and 60s (Johnny Marr, OFF!, David Bowie, Morrissey, U2, etc...) and while I only heard of this band recently after seeing this album at the top of a random website's top albums of 2014 list, I can see they are serious craftsmen getting better with age. Michael Gira reminds me of James Hetfield (Metallica) without all the trappings of a metal image on first impression, making music just as heavy, yet not metal. And I'm no musician but have worked around musicians setting up sound and appreciate seeing how Gira approaches it, not merely to be loud but to get the purest sound he can get. I also appreciate the spirituality of the music, at least from Gira's interviews where he can appreciate the Bible and the overall message. Maybe some people miss the point of this music wanting to label it as dark just because it is heavy sounding but I like that there are some mainstream rock musicians unafraid of spirituality. I think I heard some 'hallelujahs' being chanted somewhere in there. I can also see the comparisons to Australian Nick Cave's music, I could definitely imagine Swans doing a score to a western movie like The Proposition. Also, some of the more bass-heavy tracks bring Primus to mind, and there are a few freak-out moments that sound like The Doors at their trippiest. The only other music I can compare this to would be early PiL and maybe even Bauhaus. Really it's also like nothing else I've heard in a while. Probably not something to rock out in the the car to, but certainly an interesting sonic realm to enter once in a while.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was always disappointed that singer Jarboe left the band late in their ..., October 12, 2014
This review is from: To Be Kind [Explicit] (MP3 Music)
I have been a Swans fan since their first release and was lucky enough to see them live on the Children Of God tour. I was always disappointed that singer Jarboe left the band late in their career but the past 3 releases by the Swans has proved they are just as good or possibly better without her.This is an amazing album that is as good (if not better) as anything else they have released. Older fans will not be disappointed and new listeners be prepared to be sucked in and pulverized by this sonic wall of hypnotic and magical music. This is music without compromise. Annie Clark from St Vincent and Bill Rieflin from Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and King Crimson ( just a few of the bands he has worked with) appears on this release. Prepare to be hypnotized!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kid Sister and Me, September 4, 2014
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This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
To Be Kind has something to say, something to give. It is like a book of magic which is terrifying, mystical, liberating and resplendent. It is both a mirror and a doorway. The only way to know what the book is about is to go deep inside its labyrinth, but the only way to get out is through recognizing our own reflection in the doorway. Each turn finds new meaning, each passageway turned inward to transcendence via means both ecstatic and cruel. It's like a David Lynch movie in there with all the grotesque beauty on display. By the end you keep telling yourself you are not in a cult but you don't really know for sure anymore. The speakers have gone quite after two plus hours but the weight of the journey is heavy in your thoughts like the post fog of an ayahuasca dosing. Burbling funk brooding under tribal spasms and shrill eruptions of chaos, staggering recursive rhythms stomping along side existential chants and ambient threads of melody. It had created a universe inside you which you became so it isn't shocking to find yourself in a puddle of vomitus and urine apparently generated during the seizure this type of enlightenment can cause. The Seer now has a baby sister to play with, one of equal grandness unique to herself yet obviously related.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Massive. Powerful. Fearless., May 18, 2014
This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
I had never listened to Swans until 2012's The Seer, which has since become one of my all-time favorite albums. The Seer set an extremely high bar, but To Be Kind is every bit its equal.

With the Seer and To Be Kind, Swans have found a way to strip away the formalities and rules of rock songwriting and tap into the raw emotional potential of music. There's very little resembling verse/chorus/verse structure here. Songs flow through movements and emotional states. They build tension, hang on the edge of a crescendo, and blow the doors off whenever they're good and ready (and often not in that order). "She Loves Us" is probably the best example of this. Over 17 minutes, it traverses from a jittery intro that wouldn't seem out of place in a Spaghetti Western, to a vaguely South-Asian drone with meditative "mao mao mao" chant, to a wash of guitar noise and arrhythmic drum crashes, to a tense, taut groove over which Gira screams carnal lyrics on top of a looped backing vocal of "Hallelujah," before the groove collapses into countless atonal overdubs of Gira doing Gregorian-like drone chanting, before suddenly shifting into a slow, deep pounding coda. And that's just one song.

Over the course of two hours, To Be Kind flows through these peaks and valleys, yet despite its wide breadth, it feels like a cohesive whole; an expression of one man's obsessive vision, brought to life with help from some creative collaborators. Swans are not for everyone, of course, but To Be Kind is as good a place to start as any. Give it your time and attention, and you will be rewarded with an album of unmatched emotional depth and endless replayability.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Endless Swansong, July 11, 2014
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This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
You don’t need a painted face, hyper-extended unreally red tongue lolling down to your navel, odd coloured contact lenses, matted hair and definitely not foot-high heels to be a scary musical act. You just need to be Michael Gira and make the kind of music his band Swans makes. But that’s the tough part. Because the band’s music is scary not in a horror-inducing way. It is terrifying in its unrelenting intensity. In these times of 3-minute attention spans (am I being generous here?), Swans is an anachronism, making a huge demand on you with albums that are 2-hour long monster works. Less than two years after the release of their riveting epic “The Seer”, Swans have come back with what I think is perhaps an even better effort in “To Be Kind”. All the Swans stock-in-trade are here. The hypnotic quality created by phrases repeated, building up with slight modifications, gradual additions and then the nearly out-of-control spiralling crescendo best exemplified in my opinion on the shamanistic “Screen Shot” which, had the words been different, could well make for an incitement to ritual mayhem. The multi-movement half-an-hour extravagance in “Bring The Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture”. The mystical allure and strange interludes of “Nathalie Neal”. Gira and co. draw you in to their murky, insane swirl of music, bind you such that even when you break back to the surface and clamber on to safe shores, you dive back after a short breather. Either that or you bounce off the surface perhaps never again to venture anywhere close. Not for everyone, this. Because this is a dark pool that is not penetrated by the light of joy. Yet it will cleanse you in a cathartic way...at a price. More than just music, it’s an experience. Not necessarily uplifting but definitely something that will make you question convention. And that in my opinion is a good thing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant; Swans' Best, June 26, 2014
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This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
In the 30+ years since the band formed, they have undergone major lineup changes, evolved a lot sonically, and never stopped experimenting along the way. Not a single one of their albums has sounded the same as its predecessors, but each takes something from previous records and incorporates it in interesting ways. "To Be Kind" is the culmination of 30 years of brutal beats, intricately constructed epics, and sonic experimentation.

The album is incredibly cohesive; though each track is spectacular and engaging in its own right, the very particular order in which they are placed points to the beauty of the whole, a beautiful, brutal, twisted and wonderful tapestry of sound.

The range of experiences offered by this album is impressive. The song "Screen Shot", which is the album's opener, is a very groove oriented track that builds slowly across its relatively short 7 minute life-span towards an inevitably colossal crescendo, all the while adding to the ominous little opening rift with drums and cymbals, first tapping and slowly getting louder and more demanding, all the while adding different instruments as Gira (the lead singer and main brain behind Swans) chants rhythmically, propulsing this goreous and intimidating track to its climax.

Other songs rely on establishing a soundscape which enfolds the listener so completely that it is entirely possible to lose oneself in its hypnotic folds. "Bring the Sun / Touissaint L'overture" is one such, a hulking, massive song weighing in at 34:05. Shimmering, lovely, and mysterious, this track includes so many elements that many relistens are required to even begin to understand its enormity. Beginning with (and maintained throughout) are shimmering synthesized flutes(? It is rather difficult to determine exactly what instrument is used to establish this lovely effect), which create a strange, wavy sort of atmosphere that keeps you in its thrall for the entirety of the song. Soon after, brutal, pulsing guitar riffs rage through and in and around the flutes, simultaneously bombarding and lulling you into a trance. The track continues to shimmer along at it's own pace, with many instruments dipping in and out of the haze to shine briefly, sometimes glaringly, and then disappear again.

This review would be too long if I went over every song in detail; suffice it to say that the album is brutal and intimidating, but also beautiful, incredibly intricate and well thought out, and musically dazzling. Not for the weak of heart, but for those seeking musical adventure. If you feel content with your musical conceptions and don't need to be challenged, maybe just listen to "Screen Shot" and see if you like it.

Try it! 9/10, best album of 2014.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new wound in the sky, June 25, 2014
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This review is from: To Be Kind (Audio CD)
The Swans' brand of titanic, sweeping rock is unparalleled; translating to repetition, memory, and scale so demanding to perform that the amount of punishment they dish out is equal to the amount of pleasure in partaking of it.

Gira and the Swans continue their reign among the most important music of their time- never not recommended.

(Oxygen is the most rolling-on-the-floor insane a song has gotten for me in a long time.)
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To Be Kind
To Be Kind by Swans (Audio CD - 2014)
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