The Seer (studio album) by Swans
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The best album by Swans is To Be Kind which is ranked number 258 in the list of all-time albums with a total rank score of 7,709.
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The Seer track list
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|4 days ago||Timestarter||1,739||89/100|
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This album is rated in the top 1% of all albums on BestEverAlbums.com. This album has a Bayesian average rating of 81.1/100, a mean average of 79.7/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 81.3/100. The standard deviation for this album is 17.1.
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-The Seer Returns
-93 Ave. B Blues
-The Daughter Brings The Water
-A Piece Of The Sky
In many ways, the 2010 rebirth of experimental rock giants Swans is an unflinching diagnosis of ugliness, but others would classify it as a deluge into beauty. The bands attempts to stretch allegories into long-form, punishing soundscapes was briefly traversed in 2010's My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. The results were fruitful and served as insidious bits of precedent for following projects. Recorded between Brooklyn and Berlin, the 11 tracks would prove to be the band's most fatalistic, foreboding statement of their collective careers. The 12th LP from the post-rock plague-harbingers was released in August of 2012, four months before the Mayans predicted Earth's curtain call. It's entitled The Seer. It sounds like the apocalypse.
The album inaugurates opening track, Lunacy, with freezing hammered dulcimer that progresses into a trio of voices chanting the song's signature. The threesome is headlined by lead vocalist Michael Gira, flanked by Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, who make up two-thirds of the band Low. They coalesce as they incant, "Hide beneath, your monkey skin; feel his love, nurture him; kill the truth or speak the name; lunacy...lunacy...lunacy." The track then winces as the chorus declares that "your childhood is over". A pilgrimage of lost innocence is beginning to take shape. Neighboring track, Mother of the World, is a coiling, gyrating nightmare of disorientation. Quick, pummeling guitar strikes, feverish bass and calculated drums dizzy the listener for the first four and a half minutes before soothing mandolin ceases the oscillation. Gira paints visions of a Mother Earth deflowered and desecrated by humanity's ignorance. He asserts, "And where are you now, o' mother of the world; we feed from your hands and we drink from your filth and your oil." It's a distinctly provocative experience of purposive repetition. A brief moment of minimalist stillness is heard on The Wolf, which features a singing-spoken word hybrid with only acoustic guitar as accompaniment. Then, with startling immediacy, the title track appears, ushered in by wailing bagpipes. The tracks spans 32 minutes and takes many forms, paralleling the shapeshifting nature of its cognomen. Gira echoes, "I see it all," as distant kick and snare drums curiously unravel partnered with a dishonest bass groove. The malevolent pillar of a track billows before relapsing into crushing guitar collisions. The Seer then drifts into a swampy, grimy harmonica that carries a nefarious, southern hospitality. The final phase resembles the ramblings of a transient which defy articulate translation but carry an intention that is identifiably sinister. The totality of the track is truly a species unto itself.
The ever-vigilant entity recovers with the subsequent track, The Seer Returns. This experience is more traditional, if that's the word for it. Gira emits amidst a chilling choral backing (which features former Swans constituent Jarboe), "I'm down here naked, there's a hole in my chest; both my arms are broken, pointing east and west; your life pours into my mouth, my light pours out of my mouth." The return hits a euphoric plateau just before the four minute mark with the arrival of a thundering drum crash as the track whirrs into a starless sky. What follows refuses any kind of classification but it does transport the band back to their no-wave origins in New York City. 93 Ave. B Blues is a reference to Gira's 1980's big apple quarters. The area was riddled with crime and malice and it's not difficult to connect the track to its contextual inspiration. It isn't always clear what is being heard throughout the song, as the only discernible instruments are the typhoons of guitar and drums heard at the climax. It remains the flag bearer for the bands' most terrifying outing. The Daughter Brings the Water feels like a sun-soaked day at the beach in comparison. However, the track has its own misgivings detailed through its proclamations. "Stilted bones, cloaked in foam; squeeze laughter from the lather; drink water from the daughter," Gira outlines. The vague nature of the imagery leaves much to interpretation but at this point, we'd be remiss to assume a virtuous exegesis. Just when the all the light seems to have escaped, the beguiling vocals of Karen O (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame) ease your fears. Behind understated piano she coos, "There lies a seed of a million more just waiting to become." Gira joins in as the track wonderfully combusts with chants of "Send them home". Song for a Warrior is a thematic outlier of serene, cloudless beauty.
The final act of the menacing record commences with Avatar, decorated with orchestral bells that convey the arrival of an ominous overlord. Gira finally surfaces at the 4:40 mark, claiming that "Your light is in my hand". This may be the first allusion to "Joseph", a spiritual companion that, Gira has claimed, has spoken through him. The "avatar" in question here makes a more visible appearance on 2016's The Glowing Man. The bells intensify in the final stages of the track, melding with a kinetic guitar passage that guides the song into the past. Tenth track, A Piece of the Sky, begins with what sounds like a crackling fire mixed with a steady rainfall before giving way to a tortured cry of incorporeal beings. The piece then evolves with hammered dulcimer as anxiety begins to swirl before an atmospheric drum procession creates the illusion of climbing an ever-extending mountain. We don't hear from Gira until after the 15 minute mark as bells twinkle with a heavenly grace. What we get is most definitely the finest poetry the band has ever produced. Gira asks, "In the wind of my lung, in methane and in love, in petroleum plumes, there's a floating slice of moon; in your tooth and your claw and your unforgiving jaws; are you there?" The thematic intention echoes a ponderance of a spiritual guiding light that is visible in all things. By the end of the track, we don't know if Swans have found it but they are not without hope. The last hissing, growling transmission from The Seer is entitled The Apostate. An Apostate is someone who renounces their faith which tells us that A Piece of the Sky has not decided the issue. The Apostate is less optimistic in its outlook as its narrator alternates between belief and condemnation. Sonically, it's unrelenting, completely devoid of recognizable form and only describable as a percussive fever dream. Guitar body blows conspire with drums that sound miles away that form a sonic texture that chases you as you flee from the threat of bodily harm. The latter half of the track begins to groove with the reintroduction of the bells found on Avatar. Gira spits"get out of my mind' and "we're on a ladder to God". We never find out if they get to Heaven as the track undergoes a psychedelic breakdown capped off by a cacophony of drums not out of place at a ritualistic sacrifice.
Though many Swans historians would point to albums such as 1987's Children of God or 1996's Soundtracks for the Blind when mentioning the band's most devilish collections, debate always seems to bestow that distinction on The Seer. The album gravitates to all things chiaroscuro, both sonically and spiritually. Swans' most dystopian sound collages are unearthed here, bolstered by brilliant guest performances that further elevate Michael Gira's caliginous meditations. Such meditations could only be done justice in this particular state, elongated and agitated, forcing listeners to confront their grotesque, philosophical aberrations. Though 2014's To Be Kind possessed the best amalgamation of the band's musical and metaphorical agility, it was The Seer which prophesied Swans' staying power in the scope of modern experimental music. The record presents 11 tracks possessing a hydrous anatomy that shear with the force of 1000 serrated blades. The Seer is a direct vein pumping blood into the heart of an act that expands its importance exponentially as time progresses, while intently observing from the shadows, surrounded by a collapsing blackness.
2. A Piece of the Sky
3. The Seer
Rivals Soundtracks for the best Swans release, what an incredible album! A Piece of the Sky may be my favourite Swans song, but then again, they have too many incredible compositions to count.
Slightly weaker than To Be Kind in my opinion, The Seer acts as a precursor to the former album's skull-crushing, Neanderthal brutality, instead leaving room for some genuinely stunning lyricism (see the coda of A Piece of The Sky) and a wider timbral pallette.
Can I be totally honest with you guys? Can I not in the slightest hold back what I actually think? Will you not laugh?...
...This honestly sounds like The Queens of the Stone Age’s Lullabies to Paralyze with a richer instrumentation, less catchiness, and more drones. I like it though. It has the same medieval feel to it; like you’re in a hut in the woods and any day someone or something could come and take your life.
I finally committed and listened to this album end to end twice , all 2 hours of it for a 4 hour commitment
And it was worth it
Highlights include the title track 'The Seer' all 30 minutes of it , ' Song for a Warrior' which includes Yeah Yeah Yeahs Karen O's beautiful vocals and album closer 'Apostate' where the drums at the 10 minute mark and at the end sound just like Fireworks
Its not perfect though , ' 93 Ave.Blues' and its industrial experimental sounds didn't work for me , neither did 'A Piece of the Sky ' or opener ' Lunacy '
I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All I See It All
Jesus fucking Christ!
This makes me feel very unsafe.
Though a part of the best album trilogy ever made, the opener is the weakest link in the trio. It has strong moments of clarity, and even beautiful breaks in the tense, uncompromising drudges. The textures are beautiful, while remaining uncomfortable at the same time. The goal of this record is centered much more on atmosphere than on rhythm, and while I think it is done well, Swans is much better when focused on creating hard-hitting cuts like they do in the follow-up. It is a must listen before taking on To Be Kind, and a great record to lead into it.
The word that comes to mind while listening to this album is "beast".
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