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Weekly Release Spotlight: Swans

Posted on 10/29/2012


The Seer

[Young God Records]

When Michael Gira announced in January of 2010 that Swans would be reforming, he emphasized that it was not "some dumb-ass nostalgia act" and certainly not a reunion. He simply felt that the new material he was writing would be more appropriate under the moniker of his former project, whose 1998 double live album Swans Are Dead seemed pretty final. The resulting album, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, followed through on Gira's promise to move forward but didn't quite expand upon the brilliance of what was previously their last studio effort, 1996's massive Soundtracks for the Blind.

Enter The Seer. The group's 12th studio effort is reminiscent of Soundtracks in that it magnificently sums up practically everything they've done previously and then some, which is no small feat for a group with as many eras as this one. "A Piece of the Sky" treads new ground with its surprisingly clean melodicism towards its second half. Sprawling epics such as the characteristically aggressive "The Apostate" and the title track show that few groups aside from possibly Godspeed You! Black Emperor can construct such a glorious cacophony, while more compact numbers such as "The Daughter Brings the Water" and "Song for A Warrior" recall the tender explorations on their criminally overlooked MCA (!) release The Burning World.

The other crucial connection between The Seer and Soundtracks is that they are both essentially films for the ear. Certain editions of The Seer came with a sticker on the shrink wrap which read, "An unfolding cosmic heave of bliss, love, blood, and light. Technicolor sonic cinema for true seekers of oblivion through sound..." which is so accurate a descriptor for this release that I might as well just delete any of the text I've written before or after it. Similarly, Soundtracks was intended to function as a "soundtrack for a non-existent film", and both albums run for at least 2 hours. I'm not sure if Roger Ebert would agree, but you can take my word for it: The Seer is the best film you'll hear all year.

Written by Tom Steffes.

Tags: Swans The Seer Weekly Release Spotlight