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4.8 out of 5 stars29
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 17 June 2014
This is the first Swans album I have heard - God knows how I managed to miss them so far. I'm going to write a review assuming that like me you don't know their music.

It sounds to me similar to Beak and also has hints of the Doors at time. If pushed further I'd say it is medium paced and strikes a similar melancholy in me to The Cure's 17 Seconds. Also a touch of Can in there. Not saying it is derivative - it has its own sound.

The songs generally have a dirge in the background (single repeated phrase), nice use of alternative percussion (the first track sounds like someone hitting an empty cooking pot), vocals typically hypnotically chanted, with synth sounds on top to add variation and interest.
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on 16 May 2014
I've read enough pre-release/review journalese about Swans and this album (I'll avoid the excessive adjectives and track by track analysis which you can find everywhere else) so was pleased to get my signed copy in the post a couple of days ago to judge for myself. I was ambivalent about the album being much good as I had mixed feelings about the live funding album that preceded it: the tracks were enjoyable but didn't quite seize me. Equally, I had every faith.

Except perhaps for White Light and Love of Life, Swans albums are consistent mainly in their originality and difference from the previous offering. Of course it's unmistakably Swans. No longer a crooner and wailer, Gira belts out vocals and sounds with great confidence and, at the age of 60, seems to have all the time in the world to make music and let the creative force take him wherever it needs to go. At a more tangible level, the album seems to benefit from its Texan recording and the pedalled guitar sounds are fantastic; something of 16 Horsepower in some of them. And, true to Swans form, the album offers subtlety, noise, repetition and new challenges for the listener. The songs are long and the album exceeds 2 hours so we've been there before but the challenges lay in providing funky hooks in places and the addition of unsettling sounds in others: sawing, distressed horses and such!

You'll read things about Gira and god and there's certainly some element of spirituality in his art but whether it's religious or not is a whole other matter. His own description on the Young God website of playing with his band talks about immersion and the sound being bigger than them. It's about being drawn into something that is all-consuming and Gira does it for himself first and invites you to join in if you want. This album will draw you in or throw you out, depending on your artistic preferences.

Strongly recommended for those that crave originality and unusual composition.
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on 9 April 2015
On the first listen, some tracks (e.g. 'Bring The Sun/Toussaint L'Ouverture' at 34 mins.) might seem like the kind of music crowdfunding might produce with no need for brevity or clarity of ideas, just keep going until the money runs out. That, however, would be wrong wrong wrong. Here is an album made by people whose experience has shown them what it is they want to say and how to say it exactly as they want. No showing off, no bells, no whistles, just raw and magnificent sound, pounding over and over and over (e.g. 'She Loves Us') until resistance is futile. Absolutely outstanding. Really.
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on 5 August 2014
This is my first time with Swans. The critical reception of the album in the media was very positive, and followed two well-received albums from the band since reforming in 2010, but I just didn't get round to them.
It is not quite what I expected, but the heavy repetition becomes trance-like, which enables focus on musical variations, tiny hooks and lyrics - and this proves worthwhile. It is surprisingly varied - the introduction of strings on one track is a shock. The music seems to slow down time - but it's over before you know it. You could spent ages on what other things it sounds like here and there - Little Axe's slow blues, a loping rhythm which invites Tom Waits, repetitive vocal loops like the Legendary Pink Dots, aspects of contemporary classical music, and a slight reminiscence of the music in Twin Peaks which becomes disorienting - but ultimately you are forced to conclude that it sounds like just one thing: Swans.
It gets better with every listen. Quite addictive. After 2 CDs the title track right at the end is almost overwhelmingly powerful and affecting.
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on 19 October 2015
Don't think theres an album on earth in recent times that can match this in terms of menacing power and animalistic brutality.
Going into this you would expect Swans to try and recreate the majestic magic that they executed on The Seer album And Whilst To Be Kind isn't as cohesive and obviously coherent as The Seer it definitely surpasses it in terms of musical savagery and just pure jaw dropping fist pumping mind blowing sensations. As is evident on songs like "She Loves Us" with its tremendous opening riff and chant sequence and the repetitive pummelling drumming on "Oxygen" and who can forget the instrumental violence that takes place on "A Little God In My Hands". The 34 minute epic "Bring The Sun/Toussiant La Overture" might not be as immediately satisfying as songs like "The Apostate" when compared by length and instrumental performances but the creation of a living breathing world in this song makes every minute worthwhile. Songs like Screen Shot and Just A Little Boy also deserve acclaim for their unique presentation and lyrical prowess, but to be honest all 10 songs are a pure spectacle.
In Total this album definitely blends together the atmospheric sensations of the current era swans musical approach, the lyrical ingenuity of the 1990's era swans as well as the 1980's era swans violent brutality to delivering walls of sound to our bodies, minds and souls. LONG LIVE SWANS !!!!!!
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on 26 July 2015
One of the great albums I hope to list in my future would be this. I listened out of fascination from a range of high reviews off YouTube, it's a slow album indeed, and immensely difficult, but it's truly mind blowing once you are in the correct frame of mind to listen. (I say correct frame of mind, this album will most likely leave you mentally combusted like it does me every time). The tracks on this album are very progressive, and often start out subtle or silent and eventually end up a huge, insane mess of noise. But it's the way the songs progress, the way the instrumentation builds and combines, the way Michael Gira delivers his vocals, that makes this such an astounding listen. I shall say now precisely what I said when I first finished listening to this "this is astonishing". Buy it. Don't think it. Buy it.
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on 23 August 2014
I would say if it wasn't for Earl Sweatshirt and 'Doris' this would be the best album i'd heard in years. It is certainley the best album of 2014 hands down. They have changed so much as a band since the reforming with 'My Father Guides Me...' it's crazy. They are still Michael Gira but they have this new modern forward thinking almost rock band sound at times now. Check out the guitar riff at the beginning of 'Oxygen' and no offence but you could be listening to Tom Morello out of Rage Against the Machine. Also 'A Little God in My Hands' if i've got the tracks right is like some demented crack house disco. They are certainley branching out but then songs like 'Just A Little Boy' reminds us that we are listening to one of the most innovative but dark sound creators in history.
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on 14 March 2015
Incredible album ... if this had been invented in the time of apocalypse now it would have made the perfect soundtrack, so perhaps that gives you the idea.
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on 30 January 2016
Loved this saw them live at Xmas brilliant live , the DVDs is live really good
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on 1 July 2016
Not as good as The Seer, really quite inaccessible, even for Swans! - I have taken nearly 2 years to enjoy this album. For me, some of the songs devolve into pointless meandering, rather than repetition of powerful rhythms etc (e.g. the 34 minute "Bring The Sun / Toussaint L'Overture"). Not sure if I like Gira's vocal or lyrical direction, seems like a regression to 80's Swans. The spoken word song is ill advised and drags on for some time ("Some Things We Do"). First half of disc 1 is immense, and disc 2 is also sporadically great. It's not the first Swans album I'd reach for however...
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