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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind/Body/Light/Sound ..,
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.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visionary,
The latest Swans LP is an absolute monster entirely befitting of their and, in particular, Michael Gira's fearsome reputation. Two hours in length, it's an uncompromising, fiercely intense statement and exactly the sort of forward-thinking missive demanded by the band's reforming two years ago. Simply put, The Seer outstrips 2010's nevertheless impressive My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky in a single bound, reducing it in retrospect to but a necessary stepping stone on the road to an album that has reputedly been 30 years in the making.
Certainly Gira hasn't pushed himself, his band or his listeners this hard for a couple of decades. Take the almost intolerable screech-drone that opens for the foreboding gallop of the ever-intensifying 30+ minute title track. Gira's manic chants and doom-laden screams then swirl amidst bludgeoning repeats, technical drum skitters courtesy of Thor Harris and exploding time signatures all recorded at suffocating volume. The track latterly decays at a punishingly slow pace, becoming in fairness a bit of an endurance test. Indeed with a touch of judicious editing here and there, a compressed edit of The Seer may well have been looking at close to a perfect ten.
Yet The Seer is not some extremophile's paradise, rather a record of extremes that reels from rousing battle sequences to pretty patterning and then on to crushing noise. It's thus far from beyond those that dwell with any frequency as such experimental depths, but periods of extended antisocial drone and, for example, the blunt fists of "Mother Of The World" are liable to send certain curious indie types scuttling for their mothers. Welcome breaks in the running order like Karen O's beautiful tackling of the piano-led "Song For A Warrior" seem otherworldly in comparison.
Should there be any doubt however of The Seer's muscular credentials, passages during the massive closer are assuredly loud enough to literally bring down a house, its crushingly dark contortions containing just enough optimism and hope in order to inspire a fearless few willing to embrace this alternative epic. More direct, the magnificently rousing orchestral bells of "Avatar" earlier herald some impending annihilation, ultimately giving way to solemn drum volleys and an adrenalin-fired, empire-slaying onslaught.
Despite these undeniable shows of brawn, The Seer has brains too. Contributing to its racket are the tortured strains of harmonica, bassoon and clarinet, even the strings of a hammered dulcimer. This rich palette of instruments is teased out further by a cast of many, which notably includes experimental composer Ben Frost providing "fire sounds" on the relatively breezy 20+ minute "Piece Of The Sky". Notable too is the guest "voice collage" of former member Jarboe on the same track - the core band (once more including riff guitarist Norman Westerberg) currently recording as a tight-as-you-like six-piece.
Incorporating almost every element of the back catalogue - blistering No Wave, black jazz, blunt-force blues, post-rock, Art rock, perhaps even pop - Swans are still a beast in the throes of evolution and one willing to learn and use its teachings as a weapon (see the scorching "93 Ave. B Blues" for the most challenging end of this freeform programme). In fact, so many genres are tackled concurrently during The Seer, so many labels applied and then ripped apart during its course as to suggest that Swans have finally completed their voyage. Maybe it's time to start referencing Swans on their own terms - as true originals.
Advised downloads: "Song For A Warrior" and "Avatar".
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard but Infinitely Rewarding Listen,
This review is from: The Seer (MP3 Download)
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great music,
This review is from: Seer [VINYL] (Vinyl)
This album is an amazing one but it's supposed to be immersive. If this is bought on vinyl then you have to change the record 6 times! That's something that dampens an experience that should be exhilarating.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Positive Reply,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars When the time is right....,
This review is from: Seer [VINYL] (Vinyl)
It's hard not to sound pretentious when reviewing the album. It's not the sort of album you can just put on. You have to be in the mood and be prepared tom listen to the whole LP. It's dark and foreboding and tells a story. What's interesting is the way the music communicates and develops on the lyrics (see what I mean). If you have ever heard Faust you are near to understanding what it sounds like but it's a lot more structured. If you get a chance to see this live then go, it was one of the most intense concerts I have ever been too.
5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff,
Definitely a return to greatness for Gira & co. Missing Jarboe but otherwise stunning material
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Symphonic,
This review is from: The Seer [VINYL] (Vinyl)
An incredible creation. Like the apocalypse has arrived but amazingly symphonic at the same time.
Bought the triple vinyl and listened from start to finish with a bottle of wine. Works.
Interesting that the CD tracklisting is in a different order to that of the 3LP.
The Apostate (PTs 1&2)
A Piece of the Sky
93 Ave. B Blues
The Daughter Brings The Water
Song For A Warrior
Mother Of The World
The Seer Returns
I will say this, as much as I love the vinyl experience, I think The Apostate works better as one piece.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible,
I can't put into words how amazing this album is. It's not 'long' by the way, it's exactly the length it needed to be.
2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars mellow and epic,
A great album of intelligent songwriting and epic prog/ shoegaze meanderings. Never in a hurry to get to the point,...relaxed, confident epicness.
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