To Be Kind
At two hours in length, To Be Kind shows Michael Gira’s Swans are as serious, demanding and extreme in 2014 as they were back in the early ‘80s when their music was either greatly praised or harshly condemned. There is little middle ground for this group and anyone spooked by the 12-1/2 minute Howlin’ Wolf Tribute “Just A Little Boy” should probably not go forward. However, for fans of slow, gothic, death-rattle Swans, the track is just one sign that the band’s sessions with John Congleton at Sonic Ranch, outside El Paso, Texas were an overwhelming success. Much of the material was developed live during the tours of 2012-13 and explains why there is so much to sift through. Special guests such as Little Annie, who duets with Gira on “Some Things We Do,” Cold Specks, whose multi-tracked vocals guide “Bring the Sun” and honorary Swan Bill Rieflin filled out the sessions that were recorded with a solid sextet in place. “A Little God In My Hands” adds a touch of Krautrock to its elliptical groove. The 34-minute “Bring the Sun/ Tousaaint L’Ouverture” is a complex epic worthy of their reputation.