Swans - To Be Kind

Friends, I have a deep confession to make.

I made the unfortunate error in thinking that Swans could not possibly improve upon the delicately heavy and tormented sound of The Seer. I must now admit that I was wrong - in fact, I could not have been more mistaken. As much as I love The Seer in all that it truly is, To Be Kind is vastly superior in just about every way.

Once upon a time, I loved Swans, but The Seer was the first album of theirs in ages that I actually gave a fuck about. I know everyone loves Soundtracks for the Blind, but it never struck a chord with me. The last Swans album that I could be bothered to listen to again and again was probably The Burning World, which came out in the late 80s, if I remember correctly.

Therein lies the origin of the error of my thinking.

When The Seer came out, it was like reopening that window of my life - I was free to love Swans again! Not that it sounded anything like the Swans of old that I loved so; it was a new sound, but still true to what I felt Michael Gira was always getting at. Therefore, the album made so much sense to me, and I felt that it was probably the zenith of this "new" Swans. I put it on such a high pedestal - a throne, if you will - that logic declared that any follow-up would pale in comparison to the majesty of The Seer.

I was so very wrong, and so happy that I was. To Be Kind is a far superior record. This should not take The Seer off of its very high pedestal, because it surely deserves its place there. This just goes to show that none of us should ever feel comfortable in thinking that Gira doesn't have something new up his sleeve, or that he's achieved everything of note that he ever will. The songs on To Be Kind are vintage Swans - slow, heavy, and subtly discordant, and are possessed of a spirit that energizes AND enervates the listener. That being said, it is still something of a relaxing record. I realize that sort of makes no sense - when does anyone ever relax while listening to Swans? They've always been so physically jarring and uncomfortable, right? Well, something about this record sound just a tiny bit playful. I'd like to explain it further, but I will refrain. I fear I've said enough, or too much, already.

So this is something that you should get on ASAP. Perhaps I'm late to the party, I really don't know what people in general have said about the album, but for my money, it's a damn celebration. Pick it up now in one or more of its multiple forms here, at Young God Records.

Playlist: Marissa Nadler

Marissa Nadler has been performing since 2000, releasing a number of well-received studio albums, and most recently, July on Sacred Bones Records and Bella Union Records in early 2014. She's contributed vocals to Xasthur's last album, and opened for Swans this year, and toured with Earth in the past. 

Lyrically, her music has a strong narrative aspect, featuring introspective and American Gothic themes complimented by reverb-laden instrumentation and production. The Boston Globe wrote "She has a voice that, in mythological times, could have lured men to their deaths at sea, an intoxicating soprano drenched in gauzy reverb that hits bell-clear heights, lingers, and tapers off like rings of smoke”.
July, her first release on Sacred Bones Records, was recorded at Seattle’s Avast Studio, pairing Nadler with producer Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), Wolves in the Throne Room). Dunn matches Nadler’s darkness by creating a multi-colored sonic palette that infuses new dimensions into her songs. 

For more information, visit her website at http://www.marissanadler.com.

Inspiration List:

Catherine Ribeiro and the Alpes

Alphonse Mucha

Egon Schiele and his withered, tragic line quality

Giacometti and his lonely figures

Francesca Woodman

Svankmajer's animation

Terrence Malick - specifically Days of Heaven and Badlands

Julee Cruise - Floating Into The Night

Jenny Saville's painting

Lucien Freud's paintings

John Cassavetes

Louie CK - I just watched the 90 minutes flashback episode last night and was really blown away

Endless hours of Willie's Roadhouse on Satellite Radio while driving

Sammi Smith's voice

Tammy Wynette's voice

Edith Piaf

Townes Van Zandt

Leonard Cohen

Current 93 - I Am The Last of All The Field That Fell

I want to start by saying that writing this seems kind of like an exercise in futility. Current 93 has existed in countless incarnations (with David Tibet as the only permanent member of the band) for over 30 years, so really, what is the point of writing some more words about them or their records? Am I going to say something that no one has said before? No, that's probably bordering on impossible. Am I going to give some fresh insight into what makes David Tibet tick, or what possesses him to make such music? I suppose I could do that, but it would be nonsense; no one really knows, except maybe Tibet himself (and even that seems unlikely at this point) what makes him go. My feeling has always been that the answers to any questions one may ask about David Tibet or Current 93 are only found in a dream somewhere...

Which brings me to the sole reason for this post: I saw it in a dream. Just the other night, I listened to the SixSixSix: SickSickSick compilation for the first time in years, and while I've always thought it more than worthy, as compilations go, there was something about how it burned into my consciousness that night, something that made my dreams that night very revealing. I won't cheapen the dream by describing it, but what I came to was this: David Tibet is a fucking genius.

Genius. This is a word that we throw around quite a lot, and simple saying, "David Tibet is a genius" is nothing new. I've thought this is Tibet for a long time anyway, so how, you may ask, was this some great revelation? Well, I suppose it's not. Like I said, I've thought this for years, but my dream gave me something more than just knowledge, more than just a thought - it gave me something I can remember, always. It was practically something tangible.

And that brought me to listen to the newest C93 record, I Am The Last Of All The Field That Fell. It was the first Current 93 record that I listened to after this strange dream, and it just hit me square in the face that like any other Current 93 record, it's magick. Some have called it the quintessential Current 93 jazz record, and I guess I understand where that sentiment comes from, it's nothing more than an incomplete thought. I Am The Last... is of course, very jazzy, from beginning to end, but that's only the beginning of what it is. It's also a story, and a poem, and a film, and some kind of bizarre ritual that takes place wherever you are.

There is something special about David Tibet's voice and vocals on this record that take it out of the scope of just being another Current 93 record, and bring it into the stars. Tibet has always been a master of creating tension in music, but I've never heard anything quite so tense as "And Onto PickNickMagick," which is not only the best track on the record, but probably one of the 2 or 3 best that Current 93 have ever recorded. And how that tension turns to playfulness and delight on "I Remember the Berlin Boys" is just indicative of a brilliance that few possess.

If it doesn't become clear to you, from Tibet's lyrics as well as his vocalizing of them in those 2 songs in particular, and indeed on this entire record, that there is something truly magickal about what Current 93 is doing these days, then I would contend that you're either just being difficult, or you're closing yourself off and missing out on one of the great wonders of musical and literary culture of our time.

I have to be fair, of course- it's not all about David Tibet, especially on this record. He is surrounded by a great cast, which includes stars as bright as Nick Cave, Jack Barnett, James Blackshaw, Ossian Brown, Antony Hegarty, Reinier van Houdt, Norbert Cox, Jon Seagroatt, Carl Stokes, Bobbie Watson, Andrew Liles, Tony McPhee, and of course, the one and only John Zorn on saxophone.

The album can be had from various sources, maybe even your local record store. Find a way to get it; it is a work of brilliance that will outshine the sun. And if you're so inclined, go find SixSixSix: SickSickSick as well. It can be downloaded from the new-ish Current 93 Bandcamp page, if you can't find the CD.