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Swans - The Glowing Man CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.89 | 84 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'The Glowing Man - Swans (82/100)

I'm not completely sure why I prefer The Glowing Man over To Be Kind, to be honest. Comparisons between the two are practically inevitable; Swans have created an experience closely similar to their last record, not simply in terms of the music's uneasy atmosphere, lavish arrangement and unwieldy length, but with regards to the way it's been discussed with others as well.

Getting into the work of Swans has been an uphill battle for me in more ways than one. No compromises can be made when listening to one of their works, especially when you consider that some of the magic would be lost in breaking these two hour beasts into smaller sessions. The Glowing Man may be hailed (and rightly so!) as a gentler take by Swans' standards, but that might be the reason why it's ultimately resulted in the emotional reaction To Be Kind only ever hinted at.

As with the last album, I'm amazed that a rock album could challenge so and spark discussion like this in 2016. Where To Be Kind got that reaction across by pushing each aspect of music to its extremes -- be that in terms of length, heaviness, repetition, density or whatever else -- The Glowing Man rides gracefully on those coattails, creating music that still embraces those extremes without so much of their inherent edge. Swans' drone-rock sounds almost comforting in many sections of The Glowing Man, and even the most excessive segments here (like the ceaseless offbeat repetition in the half-hour title track) sound like they've been tightly reined in.

For some fans, I could see why this would make The Glowing Man seem like the lesser option. In some ways at least, it probably is. By this trilogy's standards, I don't find myself nearly as challenged listening to this one. Where The Seer and To Be Kind practically had to strangle appreciation out of me following the first couple of listens, The Glowing Man appears as a gentler return to familiar territory. The compositions are long, drawn out and eerily hypnotic. While it's not necessarily any more melodic, and certainly no more compact than its predecessors, the welling up of sound is consistently prettier here. If The Glowing Man is a journey, it's not trying to take you to every emotional extreme, as Swans were wont to do in the past. There's an undertone of uneasiness throughout the album, but it really does sound like the kind of meditative droning journey that could be interpreted as a greater parts reflection over action.

The inclusion of shorter tracks was a brilliant move, and one that I think really plays into The Glowing Man' role as the "gentle giant" of their 2010s trilogy. Where the longer sprawls conjure feeling in the slow build of dense textures and harmonies, shorter pieces give the band a chance to accentuate emotion with greater control. I think "Finally, Peace" does a near-perfect job of capping off the record, especially after such an exhausting climax in the title track. While it may seem like a repeat of the experience of To Be Kind at times, this album does a wonderful job of seeing off this chapter of the band's career together. The Glowing Man isn't a repeat so much as it is a reflection of the material they've put out in recent years. It's probably time for Swans to start moving their sound on again now that the trilogy is over. Although I've always held back from calling myself a true fan of theirs, I'm really excited to see where the band will go next.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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