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Released: Aug 28, 2012
Genre: Experimental, Drone, Art Rock, Noise Rock
Label: Young God
Number Of Tracks: 11 (2CD)
"The Seer" is the twelfth studio album by experimental rock band Swans. A 2 hour long album might not be for everyone, but if you are looking for unique music this album will more than satisfy you.
entropicxdisson, on august 08, 2014 4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: "The Seer" is the twelfth studio album by experimental rock band Swans. It is their second studio album since reuniting following a 1997 break up. The sound of this record is very different from Swans '80s classic albums like "Filth," "Cop," "Greed," "Holy Money" and "Children of God." Although the core elements of this sound such as minimalism, repetitive song structures, and Michael Gira's vocal delivery, although his vocals aren't nearly as grating as they were on the earlier Swans albums. At nearly 2 hours long this album contains wide variation in sound from track to track
The album opens with "Lunacy" which contains a droning, pulsating guitar part that soon gives way to Gira with help from Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker from indie rock band Low singing with eerie harmonies. The title track clocking in at 32 minutes is a journey of sonic bombardment featuring what sounds like a power drill solo, and a wailing harmonica section. "Song for a Warrior" is probably the most accessible song on the album featuring a folk like instrumental with vocals supplied by Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Other notable avant-garde moments include the fire sound effect intro on "A Piece of the Sky" before Jarboe and Seth Olinsky, Miles Seaton, and Dana Janssen of Akron/Family come into the song with droning background vocal over a suspended almost ambient instrumental. The final track "The Apostate" is another lengthy song, which ends with a tribal like drumming frenzy.
Instruments used includes the common rock instrumentation of guitar, bass, drums. Swans also utilize lap steel, chimes, vibraphone, piano, clarinet, hammered dulcimer, organ, synthesizer, accordion, harmonica, bagpipes, horns, cello, violin, bassoon, and mandolin.
The sound quality is exquisite, production is spot on as well, no loudness war here, this is particularly important as the longer songs contain instrumental passages that crescendo in tempo and dynamics. // 10
Lyrics: Michael Gira's lyrics have always been abstract, yet rooted in taboos like sex, rape, depression, and violence, but done in a way many metal bands could only dream of. However on "The Seer" the lyrics are very abstract at times. Lyrics will often allude to a practice such as the repetition of "In and out and in and out again" on the track "Mother of the World" alluding to sexual intercourse. The lyrics of "Lunacy" crescendo towards the end of the song actually giving the listener the feeling that the singer is slowly becoming a lunatic. The incoherent rambling gibberish towards the end of the title track, reminded me of the caveman section of Mike Oldfield's seminal prog-rock epic "Tubular Bells." Lyric wise the only song that comes close to being normal is "Song for a Warrior," these lyrics still bear the trademarks of Michael Gira's eccentric writing style but set to a more conventional song structure that actually makes the song seem normal by Swans standards. On "The Seer Returns" Swans alumnus Jarboe returns to provide backing vocals that give the song a haunting feel. As for Michael Gira's singing skills, his singing style is reminiscent of Lou Reed, almost spoken but with a subtle hint of pitch. Lyrics tend to take a back seat to instrumentation on this album which is not a bad thing. // 9
Overall Impression: Since Swans albums are all very different from one another this album doesn't compare to their other work, though minimalism, repetition, and drones are used. To me all of the songs on this album are impressive but my favorites are: "Lunacy" which is an amazing opener to give the listener a clue of what is to come; "The Seer," some may think a 32 minute long song is pointless, but this track pulls it off well with its many changes throughout and it's spectacular composition; "A Piece of the Sky" has so many distinct changes throughout that it's sort of like an experimental rock epic. The only thing I hate about this album and this is a technicality is that on the vinyl version the track listing is changed. I find the CD track listing flows much better. I love the instrumentation because it takes what sounds simple and makes it complex with layers upon layers of sound using a "wall of sound" approach. I would definitely buy this album again if it were lost. "The Seer" is one of the most unique albums I've ever heard. A 2 hour long album might not be for everyone, it's also not easy to review in depth, but if you are looking for unique music this album will more than satisfy you. // 10