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Swans - The Seer CD (album) cover

THE SEER

Swans

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.84 | 169 ratings

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TCat
Special Collaborator
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars "The Seer" by Swans came out of nowhere and knocked any expectations of the band right on its ear. Everyone knows the Swans discography started out with some of the most brutal music known to man, then it morphed into a sort of thinking- man's gothic rock, slowly becoming better and better as time passed, and then suddenly, the bands light went out. Michael Gira, the main person behind the band went on to form "Angels of Light", still creating great music, but sounding hardly anything like any of his previous work. When the time ran out for that project, Gira turned his attention back to Swans, and no one had any idea how much his musicality had grown until this album came out in 2012. It is now the band's masterpiece.

So, to create this double monstrosity of an album, Gira and the members of the band put together a lot of music, sound, textures and such, and no one was going to tell him what he was going to do, or if they did, he didn't listen. He pulled out all of the stops, making tracks for this album that varied in duration from one minute to over 32 minutes long. And, when you listen to this excellent album, you discover that the music is anything but random.

So, the music is harsh and also lovely. But not harsh like it was back in the early days. Now the music is full of dynamic and style changes. Even though it is not near as brutal, it is still more emotionally charged and hard hitting than ever. The band was now incorporating everything that was great about the new style of progressive rock, and making it all mesh together wonderfully. The tracks on this album are an amazing study in repetition, noise, textures, drones, post and math rock sensibilities, and progressive styles that make things as unpredictable as possible. And Gira's vocals were working better than ever with this new sound. There are times in this album where riffs are repeated almost to the point that they become obnoxious only to suddenly change out of nowhere and everything is planned and calculated to push you almost to the limit before suddenly veering off in another direction, but nothing about it sounds random. What it sounds like is genius at work.

The album has its share of surprises and guests, including former fellow bandmate Jerboe on "The Seer Returns" and "A Piece of the Sky", "Low" bandmates Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker on opening track "Lunacy", "Yeah Yeah Yeah"s vocalist Karen O on "Song for a Warrior", and others. What results from this is an album with a surprising amount of variety, yet cohesiveness. The thing that holds the album together more than anything is the long-form tracks that sit just as comfortable among the "normal" length tracks like they are all part of the grand design. The 3 extra long tracks here are almost like "mini-albums" all on their own. "The Seer" is a 32 minute behemoth of a track that takes the listener on a guided tour of the gears in Gira's mind that gives insight into what the overall process of creativity must feel like from inside his head. When listening to this track, and to the album as a whole, it is easy to understand why he decided to pack so much length into a track that isn't divided up into multiple tracks, because once the track is over and you are catching your breath, you feel like the statement has been made and now it is time to move to the next. But be prepared, because you are going to have your breath taken away two more times with the two long form songs on the 2nd disc.

As much as it is a temptation to explain in detail every single track on this album, it is also a fruitless exercise to do so. Words just won't explain the experience of the album. The music might not sit well with everyone, and it's not supposed to. If you can't tolerate a sense of unease in music in order to arrive to a destination, then this is not for you. You do have to be patient to get to some payoffs, and other times they come quickly, but in the end, you feel like there was purpose behind it all. It would be impossible to try to figure out Gira's reasoning behind some things in the decisions he makes when determining where to take his compositions, but that is not our job. It is our job to listen to this music and enjoy it, be stimulated by it, or just decide to shun it all together. But, "The Seer" is a definite masterpiece that shows the development of an artist who wasn't ever afraid to do what he wanted in music. In the world of modern progressive music, it is difficult to achieve what Gira did with "The Seer", using new-form progressive composition to create something that could be considered innovative and as impressive as say Yes' "Close to the Edge". But to those that are patient and are willing to explore the music, you will find that amazing music still exists, it just takes time sometimes to get it. But, then , the best music always does.

TCat | 5/5 |

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