Swans
The Seer


5.0
classic

Review

by ThyCrossAwaits USER (46 Reviews)
March 15th, 2013 | 31 replies | 1,651 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A monster.

15 of 15 thought this review was well written

Never fall asleep listening to Swans. A night spent alone with a bottle of bourbon and opiates merits a lesser throbbing hangover than that unfiltered miasma. Michael Gira seems to be a man of many nightmares, and he unleashes these terrors through Swans after they've been crushed and tenderized in his gut. The 58-year-old's stage presence staggers between iron-fisted bandleader to possessed scarecrow, and age has not hindered his need for kick-jumping across the stage before crashing down with a nameless thundering chord…30 times in a row. The Seer is a particularly monstrous demon, clocking in at just under two hours of deranged discord.

But it is impossible to speak of The Seer without first unpacking its origins. Gira himself said it took 30 years to create, calling the massive double-record a culmination of Swans discography. Swans' career sees Gira tucking into every pocket-dimension of his counterculture creep. Swans' 1983 debut Filth was a sort of gloppy industrial raging punk that burbled and burst forth like boiling pitch, whereas 1991's White Light From the Mouth of Infinity was a collection of brooding chamber songs of love and life, Gira's low drawl exuding Leonard Cohen rather than deep-voiced post-punk ringleader. Four years later The Great Annihilator, heavily influenced by the presence of Jarboe, capitalized on the post-punk idea, with cheerleader female vocals weaving in an out of cavernous tribal mood rock, ringing with the drama of movie music.

The Seer, for lack of a better comparison, is the ridiculously large and grotesque boss creature at the end of a video game where bullets bounce and light people on fire. It soundtracks a dystopic wasteland where all structure consists of scrap sheet metal thrown together like playing card houses, where the landscape is dust and sand and a perpetual dry ochre light seeps between rusty blinds. Gira is a high-functioning psychopath, sitting with his feet up and his broad cowboy hat the color of bleached bone set upon his brow. Indecipherable streams of words crawl parched from his thirsty throat, and his accompaniment is the clatter of dysfunctional machinery. He is a man who was afraid of himself, not quite understanding his own thoughts, so he has chiseled himself into a hard old man, eerily jaded with an foreboding presence.

The Seer is a well-crafted monolith of layers and repetition, building at an agonizing slow pace and glazing new sounds onto itself like a burgeoning pearl, eventually reaching cacophonous climaxes rivaling those of such powerful build-up craftsmen as Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The first half of "The Mother of the World" is a bizarre crescendo, loops of Gira's huffing breath and two-note guitar and bass licks climb across each other and are eventually flowered over by Gira making a nonsensical falsetto "eee", wandering about randomly from note to note. "Avatar" practically ASCENDS, breaking through the atmosphere with its slowly churning build. The massive title track grows on a slow, intense curve, drums and strings swooping in and out like cars driving past on the highway, Gira's blurred murmurs of "I see it all I see it all I see it all" pushing forward and careening upward till the track spills over, blasting chords crashing like noxious waves on a dead shore, fading to a crying harmonica and hopeless wind.

Between towering, 20-minute behemoth tracks, Gira slips into the dripping alleyways of his desert construct, maneuvering deftly through street funk, plodding dustbowl acoustics, and ambient noise. He takes a sharp turn into "Song For a Warrior", a track that juts from the murk like a lighthouse. The crystal-clear indie folk seeming to be from another album entirely, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O uncharacteristically mimics girl-with-piano artists like Regina Spektor. The background glimmers and twinkles are no longer eerie but calmingly ethereal. It's a sort of mercy, an oasis before the hurricane of the final three tracks. The gargantuan "A Piece of the Sky" and "The Apostate" are whirlwinds of everywhere Swans has been since '83. The crackling fire that harkens "A Piece of the Sky" bursts into a thoroughly warped trail song, a bumbling dirt-road tune stretched and debauched by off-color female chorus oohs and aahs and ritualistic rattles. The 23-minute closer "The Apostate" is a storm, growing from jittery drone to a chaotic flurry of dissonance and furious drums, foraying off into an inexplicable oddity from the deepest, most abstract recesses of Gira's psyche as punchy gang vocals shout "Star dust! Space cunt!".

With The Seer, there's appeal in the invigorating hope of survival, of coming out the other side unscathed but internally shaken. Tucked into every dark corner there are nuances meticulously placed, invisible they fly from all angles, a glimmer of bells, the scorch of feedback, flitting and sneering and careening from every angle as to be sea-sickening. The near-60 Gira wields it both as a weapon and a shield, cloaking himself in his own harsh produce. Some bands may become slightly resigned with age, almost pastoral, but Swans don't sound like other bands. Other bands sound like Swans. Swans don't sound like anything.



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user ratings (864)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
ThyCrossAwaits
March 15th 2013



3007 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Unneeded, but written for a purpose.

ThyCrossAwaits
March 15th 2013



3007 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Anybody want to explain the negs?

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2013



3008 Comments


I have no idea why people are negging - this review is solid. Have a pos.

Digging: Todd Terje - It's Album Time

RadicalEd
March 15th 2013



2437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album is good, great even, although i won't call it a five. It's just not pleasing to listen to at way to many points i feel.

Ur review is solid as well. Don't get the negs.

Gwyn.
March 15th 2013



13971 Comments


The negs are there cause another 5 for seer basically

The review is really good though, so have a pos

Wizard
March 15th 2013



18757 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Unneeded, but written for a purpose.

Actually it was needed since the staff can't seem to write a great review for this.

I would like to see this as the default review in place of the staffs tbqh, damn fine review, you really capture the essence of Michael Gira.

Digging: Triptykon - Melana Chasmata

BigPleb
March 15th 2013



28453 Comments


Good review, pos needed

SAPoodle
March 15th 2013



396 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Giving you a pos to make up for the bastards who negged. Very good review, I'm on a Swans binge at the moment

Digging: Swans - To Be Kind

RadicalEd
March 15th 2013



2437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The negs are there cause another 5 for seer basically

What kind of logic is that. Herp derp i guess the new foals album has 4 reviews that give it 4 points, better go neg the three which came later.

ThroneOfAgony
March 15th 2013



3485 Comments


fucking shit album


sputcore to the max, what a surprise

Gwyn.
March 15th 2013



13971 Comments


What kind of logic is that. Herp derp i guess the new foals album has 4 reviews that give it 4
points, better go neg the three which came later.


That's pretty much sputnik for ya.

sputcore to the max, what a surprise


shitty comment on sputnik omg what is goin on


DrGonzo1937
March 15th 2013



3359 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great reivew, classic album.

Pos'd.

undertakerpt
March 15th 2013



1137 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

this band is shit, what's wrong with you all?

Amebix
March 15th 2013



157 Comments


repetetive, boring, bad songwriting....

sideburndude
March 15th 2013



2782 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

a single sigh

toxin.
March 15th 2013



11804 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

blows
good review

Chortles
March 15th 2013



17509 Comments


damn 1.5

Digging: Chico Buarque - Construção

toxin.
March 15th 2013



11804 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

yea not my kind of music it'd be like someone who 5s Swans getting bored by an Anberlin album
oh wait that prob happens

ThyCrossAwaits
March 15th 2013



3007 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

hey man i like anberlin

toxin.
March 15th 2013



11804 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

rock on
Wish I enjoyed this honestly but idk to its credit what I don't like about it is probably what makes it so remarkable in the firs tplace



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