Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Swans - The Seer

I knew it would be a daunting task, reviewing the new album from the seminal post punk band Swans, which is probably why it has taken me so long to actually finish listening to this two hour monster, and get down to writing how I felt about it. 

Overall, I think I came back from it with feelings of positivity, despite how inappropriate that adjective might seem, considering the material. The first thoughts I had about it, mainly noticeable in the opener ‘Lunacy’, was how much it reminded me of a Pink Floyd record, remade and reworked by a band like Queens Of The Stone Age. The album is long, very epic and atmospheric, yet still has this doomy, stoner/desert rock feel to it, despite all the progression and build up going on. I mean, I had worried that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate such an ambitious and demanding album, considering the length, however, it has a certain charm to it that I couldn’t help but feel comfortable around.

I think one of the main reasons why this album is so enjoyable is that the band don’t try and make ‘a long rock song’, which is probably why a band like Pink Floyd seemed a worthy comparison. It’s not the kind of album someone would stick on to headbang to, mosh to, or do anything truly reactionary to. It incorporates a lot of operatic elements too, soaring vocals, especially on ‘A Piece Of The Sky’. It becomes very apparent very quickly that the album is more like a score than mere album. The moods it gives off are very gloomy, dark and loud, yet there is no rush to build them into something foot-tappin’ good, but more to level it out and to create a chilling and eerie experience. And sure, with such track, and many others, they all progress and do have more drum-led moments, but they are on the band’s terms. 

Also, I felt that the surprising introductory track to the second part of the album, featuring Karan O (entitled ‘Song For A Warrior’), was a really refreshing and a good easer into the second leg of the mammoth journey of the album. The sound of the album is so full of a sound I’ve never quite heard on an album before. The chords and intricate elements dotted throughout the album all seem so well thought out and suiting, so much so that the lengths of the tracks never seem to get tiresome, despite certain repetitive elements (which is what makes the album seem score-like, actually). 

Overall, I would have to say ‘The Seer’ is one of the most interesting and diverse albums i’ve heard in a good while. The listen is definitely a very long and full experience, but ultimately rewarding and rich, with vast swathes of colour and atmosphere. Well advised.


Eliot Humphreys

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