Post Rock/Math rock • United States

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Swans biography
Part of the original No Wave scene in the early 1980's, the New York City rock band SWANS has since become one of the most respected experimental rock outfits to the present. Led by the visionary vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Michael GIRA, SWANS operated for nearly two decades from their inception in 1983, he is also well known producer. His daunting and impressive songwriting abilities created some of the strangest and revolutionary music to date. Influences of post-rock are seen in numerous records, notable in Soundtracks for the Blind, which predates a lot of the crescendo-core stuff, and the band has influenced numerous post-rock bands with their ever expanding sound and advanced technical approach to rock music. Although they broke up in 1997, SWANS reunited in 2010 to record two more albums, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky and The Seer.

Bio written by The Truth(Tanner)and updated by zravkapt(Darryl)

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SWANS Videos (YouTube and more)

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Buy SWANS Music

Special Edition
Young God Records 2012
Audio CD$12.93
$10.39 (used)
Cop / Young God / Greed / Holy MoneyCop / Young God / Greed / Holy Money
Universal UK 2010
Audio CD$10.97
$16.14 (used)
Soundtracks for the BlindSoundtracks for the Blind
Young God Records 2001
Audio CD$13.54
$12.84 (used)
Great AnnihilatorGreat Annihilator
Young God Records 2002
Audio CD$10.39
$12.65 (used)
Filth/Body to Body, Job to JobFilth/Body to Body, Job to Job
Young God Records 2000
Audio CD$13.20
$16.09 (used)
Children of God / World of SkinChildren of God / World of Skin
Young God Records 2003
Audio CD$13.27
$16.26 (used)
The Burning WorldThe Burning World
Water 2012
Audio CD$11.21
$13.00 (used)
Various FailuresVarious Failures
Young God Records 1999
Audio CD$18.49
$8.00 (used)
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More places to buy SWANS music online Buy SWANS & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
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SWANS shows & tickets

  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Black Cat, Washington DC on 14 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Union Transfer, Philadelphia on 15 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Royale Boston, Boston on 17 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Bowery Ballroom, New York on 18 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn on 19 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Academy 2, Manchester on 22 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Hoult's Yard, Newcastle Upon Tyne on 23 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at The Arches, Glasgow on 24 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Lemon Tree, Aberdeen on 25 May 2014
  • Swans on 27 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Trinity Centre, Bristol on 28 May 2014
  • Swans on 29 May 2014
  • Supersonic Festival Ltd Edtn on 30 May 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at The Cockpit, Leeds on 1 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Jenny Hval at Concorde 2, Brighton on 2 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Le Cercle, Québec on 17 Jun 2014
  • NXNE 2014 on 18 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Le National, Montreal on 18 Jun 2014
  • NXNE on 20 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Saint Andrew's Hall, Detroit on 21 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Lincoln Hall, Chicago on 22 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at The Ready Room, St. Louis on 24 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Trees on 26 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Mohawk, Austin on 27 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Fitzgerald's, Houston on 28 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Exit/In, Nashville on 30 Jun 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at The Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte on 1 Jul 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at The New Vintage, Louisville on 2 Jul 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Rex Theatre, Pittsburgh on 3 Jul 2014
  • Swans + Xiu Xiu at Tralf Music Hall, Buffalo on 5 Jul 2014

SWANS discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SWANS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.81 | 12 ratings
3.57 | 7 ratings
3.15 | 7 ratings
3.96 | 7 ratings
Holy Money
4.23 | 13 ratings
Children of God
3.57 | 7 ratings
The Burning World
4.33 | 9 ratings
White Light From the Mouth of Infinity
4.00 | 5 ratings
Love of Life
4.17 | 12 ratings
The Great Annihilator
4.18 | 15 ratings
Soundtracks for the Blind
4.20 | 10 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
4.08 | 49 ratings
The Seer

SWANS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.40 | 5 ratings
Public Castration is a Good Idea
4.50 | 2 ratings
Feel Good Now
4.50 | 2 ratings
Anonymous Bodies in an Empty Room
5.00 | 1 ratings
Real Love
5.00 | 1 ratings
5.00 | 1 ratings
Kill the Child: 1985/1986/1987 Live
4.00 | 3 ratings
Swans Are Dead
4.25 | 4 ratings
We Rose From Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head
5.00 | 2 ratings
Not Here / Not Now

SWANS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SWANS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.95 | 2 ratings
Body to Body, Job to Job
4.00 | 3 ratings
Various Failures 1988-1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
Forever Burned

SWANS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 2 ratings
3.00 | 2 ratings
Young God
3.05 | 2 ratings
A Screw
3.00 | 2 ratings
Time Is Money (Bastard)
4.00 | 2 ratings
Die Tür ist zu

SWANS Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Body to Body, Job to Job by SWANS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1991
3.95 | 2 ratings

Body to Body, Job to Job
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

4 stars This album functions as part live album, part outtakes compilation. Since it is now available only as part of a package deal with Swans' debut LP "Filth" (a 2 CD reissue on Young God Records, led by Swans leader M. Gira), there is a tendency to think of it as an afterthought, or at least secondary to the "proper" albums in the vast Swans discography. However, for me anyway, this album does a better job than any other of capturing the magic of the early Swans, and if "The Seer" is my clear favorite album from the "new" Swans, then this album is my clear favorite from the "old" Swans.

But how can Odds and Sods be better than Quadrophenia? It may be a purely personal thing for me, but this album is compiled in such a way that it knocks you on your behind and then proceeds to kick you in the stomach until you can't take it anymore, and then it kicks you some more until you're simply numb and don't care anymore. Swans studio albums from the same era at least have some sense of craft and pacing -- this album disregards any notion of pacing and offers highlight after highlight, each punishment more brutal than the last. Sounds like loads of fun, doesn't it?

Many of these tracks are alternate, re-named, or live versions of songs from the early albums Filth and Cop,. but almost without exception, the versions are more powerful and punishing, albeit more sloppy and with murkier sound quality. The opener "I'll Cry for You" is clearly a studio recording (and a great one), but most of the rest seems to be compiled from live shows. But it feels as if the most primal moments of a dozen different Swans shows were all documented in one place, making it a dream live album of sorts. I don't want to go track by track here, because I would just say the same thing about each track -- it's monotonous, horrific, grinding, so overdriven that the CD almost strains to capture the volume of sound. I've often described their sound as the sound of an electric guitar and bass being thrown against a brick wall. Lots of pounding, lots of screaming, the unfiltered rage of a man trying by brute force to understand this beautiful/ugly world we live in, by the only means he has left: spilling out his last remains of pure animal energy.

If you, like I, can find the beauty behind such musical strategies (and it is very tightly structured and composed, make no mistake), then the early Swans are for you. If my description repulses you, then you can turn back now, and I will have done my job.


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 Time Is Money (Bastard) by SWANS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.00 | 2 ratings

Time Is Money (Bastard)
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Technically the first release of the 'dollar sign' era, this EP marks the transition from the pummeling sludge of their Cop/Young God days to their equally dark yet more industrial and experimental explorations. "Time Is Money (Bastard)" opens violently with a looped nail-gun resonating like a jack-hammer while Jarboe screams like a banshee before the song segues into a rhythmic, danceable clamor. This would be Jarboe's memorable introduction to her presence in the band, but only later would her role really expand regarding their work. Ronaldo Gonzalez's live drums combine with Gira's programming to make for one hell of a cool percussive racket while he recites some of his most provocative lyrics in a ferocious manner. Rarely has he ever sounded this angry and unhinged.

The 'mix' version of this song can also be found here, with an extended length and some alterations, including the lack of Jarboe's caterwauls. A slightly shortened version of this track is what can be found on reissues and compilations concerning the Greed/Holy Money era. It actually bugs me that some versions of their early songs on their original releases are so hard to come by these days, with the reissues changing certain things up and omitting a couple of tunes.

The other track, "Sealed In Skin", is more of a slow ominous dirge, in which Gira uses a deep low voice, which was actually rather novel at the time. Even more notable was the strong presence of a piano carrying the tune along with the drums, in which this was apparently the first time a piano was used in their music.

It's an interesting release in that it bridges the changes the band was undergoing while still possessing plenty of harrowing characteristics, particularly the original rendition of the title track. Certainly something to check out for those interested into digging into the band's 80's material.


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 Holy Money by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.96 | 7 ratings

Holy Money
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars Holy Money should be considered as a sister album of Greed rather than a successor since these songs were recorded during the same sessions as the band's prior release. I also think it's generally a superior album due to a couple of stunners plus alternate takes on a couple of Greed tracks in which I find these Holy Money versions more fleshed out and preferable.

"Fool", sparse yet effective in Greed as an opener, is now amped up with pounding drums and more bombastic guitarwork that almost comes across like some deranged take on Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh". The lyrics are still clear and freakish, an important part of the 'dollar sign' era. "Money Is Flesh" (I find myself saying "flesh" a lot here) also utilizes more percussion to add an extra layer to that monstrous industrial swing effect. This is the version generally heard regarding reissues and compilations.

"A Hanging" opens things on a pretty grim note, featuring Jarboe's ceremonial wailing while Gira dishes out some humdinger prose.

"Dear God in Heaven, I'll hang for you."

The music has that clanging industrial vibe, and eventually finishes with a storm of tribalistic drumming. I always thought it would make for an unforgettable 'walk down the aisle' wedding tune. The version of "A Screw" found here is creepy with the pulsing industrial throb juxtaposed with menacing whispering vocals and the eventual chanting also found on the single versions.

Jarboe actually gets a tune of her own this time around, "You Need Me", although it plays more like an interlude, or a brief oasis between two shambling behemoths. Eerie yet pretty.

As I mentioned before, there are a couple of doozies. "Coward" is similar in style musically to Greed's "Anything For You", but more provocative and punishingly depressing. The corker though is one of my all-time favorite SWAN tracks, "Another You". The inclusion of a harmonica in this venomous dirge adds a whole new element, like a boat tour through the deepest, murkiest, most alligator-ridden swamp in the bayou led by a lunatic. Halfway through the song the guitars & bass go bonkers while cavernous moans slink there way into the music, as if things couldn't get darker. This monster tapers off with the repeated line "I should have hurt you". Brilliant.

I can't deny that Greed has some memorable beasts lurking within, but overall I think Holy Money got the better batch of tunes in the end, as it's a bit heavier and no less depraved.


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 Greed by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.15 | 7 ratings

Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars It should be apparent that SWANS' inclusion within this site has little to do with this era of their discography, but Greed is certainly a significant album in terms of their development, and when this band is brought up amongst fellow ale-enthusiasts at my favorite watering hole, I tend to find that it's their early releases up through Children Of God that seem to garner the most attention, as these releases are remembered by underground enthusiasts of the 80's fondly for their notoriety and demented character.

As far as Greed is concerned, their sound had evolved from the crushing noise-fests of their prior full-lengths and the Young God EP by some adventurousness in instrumentation and style. "Fool" is a a percussion-less opener with a piano being the main instrument embellished with smatterings of guitar providing an extra layer of "melody" so to speak. Quite a surprise for fans who followed their trajectory I'm sure. What it lacks though in musical ferocity is compensated by the sheer emotional anguish presented by Gira's unapologetically blunt lyrics, dire and sadomasochistic.

"I'll cut off my right hand and stand in your shadow."

Not a typical song about devotion. These bizarre proclamations work due to Gira's vocal delivery, quite direct with an imposing tone. Nothing comes across as 'whiny' as throughout this release his voice alternates between baritone 'spoken word' recitement and harrowing bellows. The music for each tune is generally repetitive, stretching a singular idea throughout a song's entirety, which can become daunting in some cases. After the opener, things get heavier, emboldened by a powerful warhammer drum sound and guitars that often act like another percussion instrument rather than a source of melody. "Nobody" is a notable track in that it marks the introduction of female vocalist Jarboe into their fold, although she's regulated to haunting back-up vocals in a song that sounds practically ritualistic in nature. Very creepy and effective, and followed by the abrasive "Stupid Child" that bears strong 'industrial' characteristics and a sinister demeanor..

The sparse simplicity of some of these songs harbor a coldness that resonates well in providing a bleak atmosphere for the equally repetitive and seemingly straightforward lyrics, such as when Gira desperately roars "WE'RE IN HEAVEN!!!" as if it's the last place he wished to find himself. Like a jail cell.

It's not the sort of album I find myself listening to a whole lot, since each song makes its point early on and sometimes I find myself waiting for it to finish so I can get to the next hellish vision. The title track is pretty spooky (another featuring Jarboe on back-up vocals), but it really starts to wear out its welcome after a few minutes.

I generally do like playing this mean bugger on occasion, although regarding the "dollar sign" full-lengths, I tend to prefer Holy Money. Still, Greed possesses a few keepers, and makes for great listening at work as you can watch the morale of your coworkers deflate with each passing tune. It's an experiment I recommend trying at least once since the clarity of the tortured lyrics combined with the crawling waves of borderline musical accompaniment registers immediate impact on the unwary.


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 A Screw by SWANS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.05 | 2 ratings

A Screw
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars As part of what I dub their "dollar sign" period, this single is actually pretty significant in their repertoire for a couple of reasons. One involves the continued addition of new instruments, in this case, horns, into their sound. They pop up in the tune "A Screw" almost like an additional pulsing level of percussion to the already very industrial teutonic pounding by the drums and percussion. Guitars and bass also act in a percussive rhythmic fashion, resulting in a song that sounds like some funky psychotic grinding dirge while Michael Gira's menacing lyrics ring clearly over this monstrous beat.

The other important landmark regarding this release for the band is the B-side, "Blackmail", as it's the first song to feature Jarboe as a lead vocalist. Unlike the serene and probably more well known rendition found on their later Children Of God release, this version is more sparse and haunting, using low octave piano notes struck hard and with enough of a reverb effect to emit an eerie vibe. Additional vocal tracks of Jarboe singing pop up during this number to add another sweet yet gloomy dimension to it. It's not the first track of theirs to feature a piano as the main instrument, but it's arguably the first to utilize it in such an ethereal fashion.

The other version of "A Screw", the 'Holy Money' mix, is also here. Heavier with the guitars but without the rather disturbing lyrical content, with only the creepy "Holy Money, Holy Love" chant delivered by Michael's sinister moan.

Being a prog site, I should mention that their 'dollar sign' releases are experimental in nature but not what would constitute 'prog' in any typical sense. But at the time, this was some quite unusual music, too heavy and unmelodious for much of the alternative crowd and too industrial and lacking much in the way of riffs for much of the typical metal crowd. In other words, I thought these 1986 releases were really cool! The songs, and those on this release are no exception, were also quite repetitive and hypnotic in nature, taking a single idea and building an entire song around it.

This isn't an essential release by the band, as this sound is more fully explored on the full length recordings surrounding it, but it's worth checking out.


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 Soundtracks for the Blind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.18 | 15 ratings

Soundtracks for the Blind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by zravkapt
Special Collaborator Post Rock Team

4 stars Swans is the group led by composer/producer Michael Gira who have been creating some of the most interesting experimental rock music of the last 30 years. Starting out as a part of the 'No Wave' scene of the early 1980s, they originally created post-punk, industrial and noise rock. Beginning with their 1987 album Children Of God the band started to mellow out a bit with folky elements and more subdued vocals. They changed their approach yet again with this album, their last until they reformed again in 2010.

Inspired by listening to Brian Eno the album was conceived as a 'soundtrack for a non- existent film'. Gira and longtime partner/vocalist Jarboe created some of the loops and sounds way back in 1981 and 1985; the rest of the music was recorded in 1995/96. Some of it was recorded live and some of it in the studio, sometimes mixed together Zappa-style. The music here was the most varied and experimental Swans had yet done up to this point. What makes this particular double-CD release interesting is the fact that it predates the kind of crescendo building cinematic post-rock that became more prevalent years later.

Godspeed You Black Emperor! comes to mind with the vocal samples and overall gloomy atmosphere. Although a lot of later post-rock has a similar vibe to some of this album, when this was actually put together most "post-rock" bands of the time were doing a Krautrock/dub/fusion hybrid very different from the kind of music GYBE, Mogwai and Sigur Ros would later make. Some of the vocal samples were taken from surveillance tapes Jarboe got from her father who was an ex-FBI agent. Others are supposedly of Michael's father. The main difference between this album and earlier Swans releases is that up to this point their music was vocal/lyrics oriented; here they make lots of room for instrumental excursions.

This is a long album and the track times range from 1 1/2 minutes to almost 16. "I Was A Prisoner In Your Skull" sounds like what GYBE would between 1997-2000. Including pummeling, militaristic drumming and oddball vocal samples, in this case a man describing how "f---d up" an unnamed person is with some kind of weird ambient backing. "Helpless Child" is a reworking of an earlier song. It's the third track but first with actual vocals. It starts off in Swans-style folky/ballad territory. After 8 minutes begins some electric guitar strums and lovely vibraphone. Then slow-paced pounding drums enter and shortly after some symphonic organ which adds to the slow-building crescendo already under way. The electric guitar proceeds to get an almost metal-like crunch to it while the organ playing becomes more predominant and busy. Then everything settles down.

"Live Through Me" opens with some hypnotic backwards loops (on organ?) before fast strummed acoustic guitar leads this drumless instrumental. Some guitar arpeggios to end it. "Yum-Yab Killers" is a rough sounding live performance based on the song "Yum-Yab" from a Jarboe solo album. This is Swans in post-punk style. "The Beautiful Days" opens with waves of atmospheric guitar distortion. Looped choir-like sounds lay the foundation for more atmospheric and spacey sounds. Then a recording of a child singing (also looped and faded in and out). More vocal samples at the end, this time a woman who's voice is slowed down. Such a beautiful and mysterious track.

"Volcano" sounds like a parody of the 'dance music' that was popular at the time. Sung by Jarboe and based on a programmed beat which is played backwards half the time. "All Lined Up" starts out as a weird sounding track with Gira's altered vocals (except for his background wordless vocals). Then out of nowhere goes into GYBE-style crescendo territory before abruptly going back to the earlier section. Both sections alternate twice. "Animus" opens with sound effects, acoustic guitar picking, dreamy keyboard sounds and Gira's vocals in folky/ballad style. Stays in this territory while other instruments (notably violin) are added. Halfway guitar distortion, more strings and random tom-tom hits takes the music in a different direction entirely.

"The Sound" is one of the standout tracks. Subdued strings, tremoloed guitar and vibes create an atmosphere for Gira's mournful vocals. Accordion and/or harmonium as well as almost random subdued tom-toms add to the atmosphere. After 4 minutes begins the first crescendo with guitar chords and cymbal smashing. Around 7 1/2 minutes switches to another crescendo - this time with repetitive organ and an overall GYBE-before-GYBE sound. After 10 minutes goes back to the beginning section but now the vocals are more intense. "Blood Section" is perhaps the most 'normal' sounding song here. However, this track is instrumental and sounds like then current alternative rock (but oddly the kind from the UK not the US).

"Hypogirl" is a weird avant-folk track with Jarboe on vocals. "Empathy" is another fairly straight-forward track which occasionally has a Mogwai-before-Mogwai vibe to it. "YRP" has Jarboe's spoken-word vocals over music which sounds similar to GYBE at their most mellow and subdued. Then the music can't decide whether it wants to build a crescendo or not. Then it decides that it indeed wants to build one...just not very dramatic or heavy of one. "The Final Sacrifice" is similar to both "Animus" and "The Sound" but there is no crescendos. Instead, Gira's vocals occasionally get loud and intense. Applause at the end. "YRP 2" sounds like the climax to a crescendo already in progress. Of all the songs here this one sounds the most like 1980s Swans.

A lot of music here and it may not be the most consistent album ever released, but a lot of ideas and effort went into its creation. Yet, it still sounds raw and spontaneous. A lot of music over the past 15 years sounds similar but there was nothing that sounded like this when it came out. The people most surprised by this album were probably Swans fans. It's hard to say who to recommend this to. If you enjoy GYBE and the offshoot A Silver Mt Zion you will most likely enjoy this album as well. The next two albums are in a similar vein but if anything they are actually more refined. Not a 'masterpiece' but highly recommended. 4 stars.


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 Filth by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.81 | 12 ratings

Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy

4 stars The debut album by SWANS is a full-on no wave experience which was a splinter from the punk culture in New York City in the late 70s and early 80s. It was in contrast to the new wave movement that it was specifically in reaction against which threw out melody and added healthy doses of abrasive atonal sounds, hypnotic repetition of rhythms with the emphasis on musical texture.

I have also heard it referred to as a branch of noise rock and that does have validity to it since there seems to be regular rhythmic drumming that is the canvass for all kinds of chaotic sounds to flow around creating strange swells of sound. The fact is that despite being called no wave this reminds me of the waves in the ocean in a way where they come ashore in regular intervals but each one has its own chaos embedded in its regularities. Swirling in eddies and irregular patterns until they crash violently against the land.

SWANS takes the no wave approach into new arenas. They were one of the few no wave bands to actually stick around long enough to develop their own sound and this debut album has been described as "the ideal soundtrack for mass suicides or nuclear holocausts." Hardcore it is with it's depression inducing stridency and total lack of anything remotely melodic with the distortion of heavy psych and the screamed vocals that remind me a bit of the sludge metal band Neurosis. Also in the mix are industrial type sounds that add yet another layer of bleakness and robotic detachment from finding that happy space. This is dark and sinister sounding. Despite having little melody the undulating sonic waves are strangely addicting making this unique experience a very interesting debut album.


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 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.08 | 49 ratings

The Seer
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by BrufordFreak

5 stars This is one of those very rare albums that comes along once in a great while--maybe every two or three years--that catches me by surprise--that is so unexpected, contains music that is so far beyond my experience or imagination as to absolutely blow me away! This album has also, once and for all, confirmed for me that I have a very serious attraction to/affinity for trance- inducing music. This music drives and thrums and sucks you into its maelstrom of controlled chaos. It induces entrainment--an experience I value perhaps more than any other in this lifetime. For those of you who don't know about, or who might have never heard of 'entrainment,' it is a word used to describe the event of the 'synchronization' of a multiplicity of persons (or beings) into a singular rhythm. For a musician or music listener this is a supra- or meta-physical event in which time and space seem to disappear due to the deep connection one is experiencing with the music, the rhythms, the experience of feeling as if one is within/a part of the music. Their is forged an amazing interconnection to all others in--a veritable disappearance of ego and I-ness, which is replaced with an unhuman feeling of being so connected to the music, to the (other) musicians, that one could swear that the 'perfect' and 'magical' music is being channeled through the collective--as if it is effortlessly coming through onesself as if seeking to take its place among and with the notes, rhythms and sounds of the others. It is understood that on a very deep, unconscious level humans are drawn to the lake- and sea-shores because the rhythm of waves rolling up onto the beaches is one with which the human Cranial Rhythmic Impulse (the brain's rhythmic pumping action of cerebral spinal fluid) entrains--creating a very steady, healthy, and healing physiological event within the human host. Entrainment is when feelings of connectivity and unity supercede all illusions of separation and disconnection. The music of The Seer is music to entrain to.

Five star songs: "Mother of The World" (9:59) (10/10); "The Seer" (32:13) (10/10); "The Avatar" (8:51) (10/10); "A Piece of the Sky" (19:10) (10/10); "The Apostate" (23:00) (10/10); and, "Lunacy (6:10) (9/10).

This was (and is) The Best Album I've Heard from 2012 and my #2 "favorite" album from that same year.


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 The Seer by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.08 | 49 ratings

The Seer
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Andy Webb
Forum & Site Admin Group Admin / Heavy Prog Team / Math Rock 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 Sigúr 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.


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