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As I write this Swans' latest opus To be Kind sits, remarkably, in the Billboard top 40. Swans in the top 40 is such an odd concept to grasp, seeing them nestled in between the Arctic Monkeys and Bastille one almost has to assume it's some kind of statistical error - an erroneous figure mistakenly attached to their sales figures - but no, the innards-fucking, mind-splitting behemoths have stepped out from the darkness and into the living rooms of the bemused public. Never will a meal with friends whilst listening to something from Pitchfork's 'Best New Music' section sound the same again. Your partner will stare at you like the deranged, inappropriate fuck that you are, your children will awake screaming and shaking with fear because they hear the sounds of a 'bad man', your neighbours will pound your door down soaked in nervous dread and your dinner guests will never speak to you or your family again. The only thing louder than the throbbing bass drones, thunderous drums and contorted screams of Michael Gira on To be Kind is the sound of the door slamming behind the flood of disgusted guests leaving your house.

Swans have never been a band short of confidence or conviction but this chart-rising news seems pertinent in the context of tonight's performance. Never have the group felt so forceful in their restraint. If their 2012/13 tour was being thrown off a building into a pit of spikes in complete darkness then their 2014 one is being dangled by the ankles, teased and tormented before the inevitable descend. On their previous tour much of what would become To Be Kind was crafted on stage and already, only a week after its release date, Swans are showcasing new material, opening with what appears to be a new composition entitled 'Frankie M'. It creeps, rises and builds both in sound and personnel. Thor Harris and Phil Puleo rattle and tickle the percussion and drums, Christopher Hahn then enters to add his strange, wailing lap steel before Gira, Norman Westberg and bassist Christopher Pravdica fill the stage, sending surging waves of shuddering vibrations careering through the room.

Much is made of the force, volume and impact of Swans. Many often underselling their virtues by labelling them, misleadingly, as simply a 'noise' band. While the corporeal experience of a Swans show is fundamental - the crunching, gut-twisting brute force of multi-layered compositions hurtling into your stomach from speakers being tested to new limits never stops being a drug-like exhilarant - they have become absolute masters of the sweeping and the cinematic, creating something desert-like in scope, a vast, razed, scorched landscape that can often be as defined as it can amorphous. In short, you get lost in a Swans performance. Gira has often compared Swans to the experience of taking drugs or having sex and tonight this becomes upliftingly evident. Yes, it's drug-like because it's a rush and it takes you to new states but it's not a cheap, quick fix, it's a meaningful and truly altering experience. Have you ever encountered anyone with an ego problem whilst in the grips of a glorious psychedelic experience? Of course you haven't, it strips the psyche of ego and besides, they're no doubt too fixated on the pulsating pattern of the bleeding wallpaper anyway. It is this drug experience that Gira talks of, not the amphetamine grit-your-teeth lift-off that perhaps their music can most physically feel like but instead mind-altering, deep, heavy psychedelic introversion in which you become so utterly lost in the moment, yourself and the experience that consciousness has the power to disappear. Similarly, have you ever felt cynical whilst in the midst of losing yourself sexually? Again, of course not, you become so absorbed in the moment, so transformed and locked-in to the experience that all that can possibly exist is that instant, barriers are lifted and you transcend states psychologically and physically.

Swans may have all the exhilaration and excitement of a randy fumble in the back of a car but what the experience really surmounts to is something tantric, something that is allowed to build and grow, to gently rise and bubble like an evolving volcano. Take 'Oxygen' perhaps the most vicious, direct and explosive of tracks from their most recent album, it is reduced to a throbbing simmer. The breakdown of 'Oxygen' is like watching a musical self-realisation unfold, the group becoming aware of their majesty and power in what they can hold back. It's generous but also withholding. The live set-up is emblematic of this mentality too, a minimal drum-kit with Thor Harris' set-up (usually consisting of a huge drum, gong, expansive percussion etc) reduced to bare-bones essentials. For the first time in years they ditch playing 'Coward' and there feels something significant about this decision too. An intoxicating confidence and solidified union permeates their aura tonight.

To anyone that has seen Swans in recent years, it has no doubt been accompanied by a seething, screaming Gira, drenched in sweat, bent over on his knees as an earthquake cripples the room and an impending apocalypse feels palpable. Tonight - comparatively - barely a drop of sweat soaks Gira's shirt, while his performance is no less impassioned, forceful or transfixing he has twisted his role as pedagogue to something altogether different. Even more new material surfaces during the set and by doing so Swans are reverting the accepted function of what seeing live music is about, it's not a trip to experience the familiar and the (somewhat) expected as much as it an unpredictable voyage into what the future may hold - and ultimately it's this, the unfolding, live, on-stage evolution of a group that makes watching Swans such an altering experience tonight. So rarely are the functioning mechanics and musical advancements of a band so visible and so public. It is never anything less than utterly enthralling.

The above photo was taken during their London show on May 27th.