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Swans - The Seer CD (album) cover

THE SEER

Swans

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.79 | 71 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Andy Webb
Forum & Site Admin Group
Admin / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars Swans is a band whose breadth of mind and depth of experimentation will be remembered by music enthusiasts and experimental music fans for decades to come. Led by Michael Gira, the two decade old project has produced some of the most haunting and dense music since their inception in the early 1980s. The band has come in and out of a plethora of styles, from quiet and haunting experimental rock to full out sludge metal to post punk to gothic rock. Of course, they were originally in the "no wave" movement of the 1980s, showing their dedication to underground, experimental music. The band has had its share of squabbles, though, as any band of such an extreme genre would. Band members, fought over direction, albums showed strain between composers, and the band broke up in 1996.

In 2010, however, Gira gathered the flock once again. The reformation produced two new albums: My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky and perhaps their best offering to date: The Seer.

Where does one start on such a mammoth of an album? Running at almost two hours, the two-disc set is one of the band's longest studio albums, and contains a world of mind- ravaging material that would surely make someone go insane with too much exposure. On The Seer, we see Gira and company at their most intimate, moody, dark, and brooding selves ? The Seer is an experiment of the listeners endurance, but not because the album is overlong. The Seer makes the listener yearn for more and more Swans.

The raw emotion emitted from these tracks is intoxicating. The instrumentation of the massive array of guitars, percussion, folk instruments, strings, brass, keyboards make dense and impenetrable layers of sound laced with emotive power and musical might. The actual performances are imperfect, but this only enhances the atmosphere of this beast. From Gira's quietly strained and wavering vocals on "The Wolf" to the wall of sound that hits on the epic 32-minute title track, the album's delicately imperfect performance shows that these musicians care not for carefully crafted musical scores nor mechanically quantified note sequences ? these musicians want to tap into the emotional current that flows through the musical mind ? and they do it. Each track, no matter how short of long, contains in it a spectrum of emotion, from subtle but penetrable fury to droning insanity to blissful innocence to mysterious curiosity to so much more ? the eponymous seer can truly see it all as he travels the breadth of the darkest of human emotions to the brightest of emotive triumph.

Far from emotions, however, the musicality expressed by Gira and company on The Seer truly shows how much of a visionary Gira is. Rather than conform to any traditional musical form at all, Gira crafts a visceral exploration of the aural art of musical. Gira evokes the very rhythmic beat of society and humanity and crafts it into song. The subtle beat of a human's stride, the tempo of their mind, and the timbre of their personality can all be found within the folds and folds of the dense texture of The Seer. In some ways, it almost seems as though there is too much being put into this album. There is so much to take in, so many musical journeys to go on, and so much power put into these performances that it's incredibly difficult to sit through the album in one sitting and truly experience all that it has to offer.

Everything on this album fits. One of the most spectacular things I noticed when listening to the album in its entirety is how smooth the whole the two hours feel. For many bands, producing a massive two-disc album means bouncing around styles in a way that is fairly awkward for the listener to experience. As rough and dense as The Seer's soundscape is, however, the entire listen is continuous and "whole." Even songs like "The Seer," "A Piece of the Sky," and "Apostate," whose massive length lends them to have an entire spectrum of stylings contained withing them, contain a sense of finality when they finish with no loose ends that still maintains an air of openness that allows for the succeeding track to flow effortlessly forward (save, obviously, "Apostate," which brilliantly ends the album).

Is The Seer the next progressive rock masterpiece? Most likely not. I do not expect Yes fanatics to jump ship from Close to the Edge and start hailing The Seer as the second coming of 1973. The Seer, however, provides a rare eye into the potential of the experimental rock genre. The Seer, from a genre standpoint, transcends music. In so many ways it is simply impossible to categorize this album in any one genre. Of course, post rock is just one blanket term that can be applied to the band. While SigĂșr Ros or Explosions in the Sky may provide the most stereotypical example of post rock, Swans makes us look at the genre like Bark Psychosis did when they were first coined as post rock. What will come in the rock scene when the world is in a post- apocalyptic nuclear winter? What will the musical visionaries of the next 300 years brew up? Swans provides a small window into that world. The Seer is, like its title suggests, is like a divination into the purest musical expression humanity can produce while maintaining an air of musical structure and taste. While Merzbow may hold the record for purifying human anguish into sound, Swans makes human emotion musical.

In the end, there is almost too much to collate and process in The Seer. A raw expression of musical experimentation, this album transcends the bounds of post rock, progressive rock, or experimental and avant-garde music. The Seer is a masterpiece by default ? there is no other option for it. This album enters the listener's state of mind and forms and molds its structure during listening. Without a doubt, this album earns the highest marks. 5 stars.

Andy Webb | 5/5 |

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