American post-punk band Swans has been around for awhile and so can perhaps be forgiven for their love of excess. Clocking in at nearly two hours over two discs, The Seer is not an album to be trifled with – one almost expects it to come with a warning label. It is the band’s twelfth studio album and the second release since reforming after a 15 year break. The Seer defies categorization, preferring to run haphazardly and wildly through somber interludes, triumphant melodies, and abstract, meandering trains of cognizance.
“Avatar” is one of the most beautiful tracks on the album. It is a richly woven tapestry to repeating rhythms, with layers of bells, guitars, and drums that draw the listener in. When Gira finally does begin to sing in the climatic fifth minute of the song, it is clear that the words are only another layer among many. And even so, it is wise to not become too comfortable. Just when it feels like the song is done, it launches into a raucous cacophony of noise and drums to finish. Other tracks push the boundaries of musical excess. “A Piece of the Sky” begins with the sounds of crackling, as if at a campfire, which continues for many minutes before being interrupted by an eerie chorus of clashing noise and mismatched notes, punctuated by the occasional whispered word. At the 10 minute mark, it abruptly transitions into a guitar driven post-rock piece that is almost pleasantly melodic. Those who manage to listen through to the very end will find that it is an elegant track indeed. The title song, “The Seer” is another lengthy number that fans would do well to curl up and listen to.
It is harder to see the beauty in some of tracks, however. “Mother of the Earth” is unsettled and full of anxiety. With its staccato and abrupt pacing, it is a hard song to simply enjoy. “The Wolf” is another puzzling piece, perhaps due to its brevity. Noisy and convoluted, it is done before the listener can even begin to fathom the meaning behind the curtain of sound. That being said, “The Daughter Brings the Water” is a delightful quickie, full of country twang and mystery.
The Seer is an intensely primal album laden with sharp, unforgiving edges. Suffice to say, it may not be for all tastes, but for the patient, there is also beauty and majesty in the dark cinematic creations that front man Michael Gira has dreamt up. Just be sure to find a comfortable spot before you start listening – you’re going to be there for awhile.
Swans Website http://swans.pair.com
Swans MySpace http://www.myspace.com/swansaredead
Swans Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Swans/13879391977
Young God Records Website http://younggodrecords.com
Young God Records MySpace http://www.myspace.com/younggodrecords
Young God Records Facebook https://www.facebook.com/younggodrecords
Amazon CD (Standard Edition)
Amazon CD (Special Edition)
Michelle Ly (MichelleLy)