on 19 September 2012
Much has been made of Michael Gira's observation prior to this release, that this is the sum-total of 30 years of SWANS development. More interesting is that he then says its impossible to record a definitive 'version' of his vision because it develops each & every time its played/performed. Take, for example the We Rose From Your Bed ... version of old classic I Crawled - its come a long way from the aggressive beast it once was but the kernel of the original is there. I was almost frightened to play The Seer for the first time, so much the anticipation . Its almost overwhelming at first, but don't let the two-hour time-frame put you off. This record is beautifully paced & while there is copious amounts of cacophony, dissonance & repetition, there is also respite, space and beauty. In spades. Its one of those records that will be something different to each & every person that takes the journey through it. In 'The Seer', the tremendous 30-minute centre=piece of the first disc is some of the most remarkable & challenging music Gira has ever written & its awesome in the very essence of the word. Intense but not overwhelming, it takes you in a psychedelic fugue up & up & ... well you have to be there.
In 'Song For A Warrior' you find perhaps the most beautiful SONG that Michael Gira has ever written. And in the album's titanic two closers, is that quintessence of SWANS that maybe, he's been talking about.
The Seer is certainly not for the faint-hearted. But in Gira's words "the goal is joy" , & The Seer is certainly a joy to behold.
on 29 June 2013
I'm not going to lie, listening to this two hour album, start to finish is going to be hard, particularly if you are not used to experimental music and more specifically drone. Much of this album in purely instrumental, with the instruments constantly grooving through a single pounding riff over and over, and on first listen it can seem very over the top and pointless. However, numerous listens are rewarding, as you will notice the subtitles of even the hardest pounding riffs, particularly the tumultuous pounding that kicks in halfway through the half an hour long title track, which is fearfully torturous on first listen.
The vocals on here are pretty sparse but very rewarding. The opening track contains some ritualistic vocals, creating a lot of atmosphere and power right from the off, but when Mother of The World kicks in, it's on a fierce onslaught and the band really kicks into a single droning groove for nearly half the song, with only subtle changes and dark vocal flourishes. This eventually winds down into the albums shortest track, The Wolf, in which Michael Gira delivers a vocal that lives up to the name of the song. It is a wonderful introduction into the title track, which is by far the most challenging, with it's opening of bagpipes, bell chiming and hammered dulcimers basking in chaos until the band start jamming on ever more brutal and droning riffs and grooves.
The Seer is followed by The Seer Returns, another vocal heavy track and certainly one of the albums more accessible songs, at least musically, as the vocals are as usual, dark and sinister. There is also a backing from former member, Jarboe on this song, which is a little subdued, but is a great addition to the rather catchy, or at least enticing groove on which the song runs, which has a rather European, or eastern flavor to it.
After that rather fun track, the onslaught continues with quite possibly the most deranged track on the album, 93. Avenue Blues, which is slowly builds tension throughout, only to be released in furious crashing of drums, guitar and synth at the end. It is then followed by the rather standard, yet eerie The Daughter Brings the Water. Following this, the listener (they they are still listening) is rewarded with one of the albums most beautiful songs, A Song for A Warrior. It is certainly the least experimental, but by no means worst track on here. It is a welcome change, with some great lead vocals from Karen O'.
This doesn't last however, because then Avatar kicks in, quite possibly the weakest in terms of lyrics, though it is followed by more beauty in the track, A Piece of the Sky, featuring a haunting introduction and is truly an unexpected highlight of the album. The track winds up as a rather jaunty song towards the end, sung by both Gira and Jarboe, and acts as a rather mellow, chirpy calm before the deranged storm which is the final track, Apostate. Apostate literally sounds like an Apocalypse; it is scattered and insane, fierce and pulsating, certainly a difficult first listen though it has since become another stand out.
The most strange thing of all is that though this album is two hours long, even on the first listen it didn't feel that way and after multiple listens it has really left me wanting more. This is the first Swans album I have heard and it has made me desperate to explore this bands back catalog to see what else they have created.
Takes a while to sink in- but you probably already know that.
Whirls around elements of Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, Branca, Can and pieces of jagged debris from a melee of proto industrial bands to create a black jazzmic colossus. In other words, it does not sounds like anything else.
Sounds come and go, shifting across the speakers, drones, soothing female voices combining in layers of deadbeat patter. Michael wanly intones rather than screams, whilst the songs foundations are held down and riveted by the muscle of drums thrashing out a constant "shape," to hold the electric storm.
Delivered and wrapped in a world weary montone, focusing on various disembodied human emotional states - emitting the cry of a vast, forever stretching, silent empty universe, where meaninglessness is seen as a residing core value. In response, humans vainly build constructs to make sense of their distorted self-reflection.
The album in its two hour entirety can be seen as more than a positive reply.
on 17 January 2016
Swans, what more can be said about them that hasn't been said for over 30 years now. Led by a restless and relentless musical maverick and innovator ( at least in the independent/underground music scene ) Michael Gira, Swans has continually evolved and mutated into an unstoppable musical beast capable of doing absolutely anything and everything. Something countless bands and musicians attempt to do their whole lives and their efforts are annihilated by each and every release Swans put out ( or should I Say everything that Michael Gira has been involved in ?? ) But All That Aside This Album, The 2 Hour Long, Two Disc Spanning (Three When Picked Up On Vinyl) Is an 11 Song Caricature That Not Only Is Composed Of Multiple 20 + minute epics and even a 30 minute one but also contains some of the heaviest and bombastic songs in the entire Swans catalogue and some of the sweetest and utmost beautiful compositions too.
For Me Personally I See This As A Concept Album, With The Concept Being The Theme Of The Universe As A Living, Breathing Entity And Life As A Process Of Growth And Renewal. However This Story Is Told Quite Differently On the CD version and the Vinyl version with the ordering and arranging of tracks. The Title Track The 32 Minute Ordeal "The Seer" is obviously The Albums Centrepiece, with The Other Epic Songs Such As " A Piece Of The Sky " and " The Apostate " serving as Not Only Instrumental Passages For Gira To Bless Your Ears With His Twisted Soundscapes But To Create A Cohesive Environment In Which This Monolithic Album Can Sonically Exist And Connect In Harmony With The Other Somewhat Shorter Songs On This Album. With Bombastic and Violent Build ups with the instrumental "93 Ave.B Blues" to the calming and pitch perfect acoustic ballad "Song For A Warrior" sung by Karen O of the Yeah' Yeah' Yeah's this album never lets you get off its rollercoaster ride through extremity all the way until you get to the harrowing "The Seer Returns" with ex Swans Co Leader Jarboe returning on background vocals to give this album a ending that leaves you wanting to take the monstrous journey all over again. All In All This Is Possibly The Best Album Made By Swans With It Being Up To Par With 1996's Gargantuian Soundtracks For The Blind which still manages to be at least 30 mins longer but not quite as non stop captivating on a conscious sense. This Wouldn't Be Recommended For People Who Enjoy Their Sing a long songs from bands like The Beatles Or Michael Jackson, instead this is for serious music lovers and people who are looking for the music equivalent of a 2 hour horror movie. Because Believe Me This Is Definitely Horrifying To Listen To On A Dark Night By Yourself, With You Hiding Under Your Bed With The Seer Blaring And Gira Chanting Like A Never Ending Life Force That Beckons Somewhere beyond Space And Time The Eerie Words, " I SEE IT ALL".