FAME Review: The Swans - The Seer
The Swans - The Seer

The Seer

The Swans

Young God Records - YG45

Available from Young God Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Michael Gira, otherwise known as 'Mr. Swans', has noted that it took 30 years to make this double disc venture, The Seer, collecting and annotating every idea he's ever had in the band and elsewhere, now concentrated and mega-intensified. Merely the first cut tells us he ain't kiddin' around, Lunacy being a blend of Killing Joke, Magma, Branca, Popul Vuh, Neurosis, Van der Graaf Generator, and God himself only knows how many other sophisticated influences. This is The Swans' most progressive work to date by far, nearly RIO-ish in materiality but mutantly hanging between neoclassicalism and trad progrock—uh, the nasty, rough, threatening, bilious side of the halcyon old days, that is.

Even Swans fans aren't going to expect this bad-ass bastard. The unrelentingly repeating chord structure of Mother of the World carries Lunacy's vibe forward, straddling serial minimalism with an even more pronounced stuck-record ambience as a bemused, cracked, melismatic, vocal sing-song arises to usher in actual dementia. To say that Seer is a cabaretic riot of interpolated moods, sounds, and landscapes, all of them inky dark, is to understate the case. The famed Bedlam Asylum was a quiet bungalow dozing in the evening sun in the Hamptons in comparison. The rich textures informing Seer's ongoing narrative is the result of six sets of hands (Gira's included) as well as an honorary member's and…well, I stopped counting after 20 sessioneers appeared in various cuts 'cause I ran out of fingers and toes.

To all the groups and singletons compared above, now add Univers Zero, Jasun Martz, and, hell, even Iannis Xenakis (the title cut here is so thick with choking swirling simoom sands, intense shafts of desert lights, circling demons, and god-machines that it's mythologically Persian). Frankly, as good as the Swans have been, I had no idea Gira was hiding this phantasmagoria inside himself. Don't get suckered in the soft passages, 'cause the moment you do, he'll be grabbing ya by the scruff of the neck, hurling you back bodily into the hurricane. This isn't meant to be a meditative affair but rather an elegant primal scream transfixed through brain-shattering glimpses into byzantine hells and baffling dimensions.

Track List:

  • Lunacy
  • Mother of the World
  • The Wolf
  • The Seer
  • The Seer Returns
  • 93 Ave. B Blues
  • The Daughter Brings the Water
  • Song for a Warrior
  • Avatar
  • A Piece of the Sky
  • The Apostate
No songwriting credits given (promo copy).

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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