Swans

Swans

Swans

The Seer

Young Gods Records

I’m flat out too unhip to properly appreciate this record. It’s an oddly wandering sludge of compositions, some sounding like experimental metal, others like the soundtrack of a horror film, and even some frustratingly beautiful compositions that tease and leave. While I maybe dissing the next Velvet Underground, this record feels self-indulgent at best, and purposely annoying at worst. I know mine is the minority opinion, but it needed to be said.

I’m working with the two-CD version of “The Seer” but the turntable-enabled can collect the three-disc LP and the digital fan can get the recordings with a companion. Having been through the valley of experimental free-form composition, let me tell the tale. Opener “Lunacy” might just induce that state. There’s a promising vocal chorus with a rising guitar riff behind it, the chorus chants “Lunacy” over and over, and this cut is my favorite part of this project. “Mother of the World” quickly settles down to a repetitive riff and beat; it’s not exactly a vinyl disc stuck on repeat, but it’s heading in that direction and, at nine minutes long, leaves enough time to pop popcorn, eat it, and clean up. “The Wolf” is a dreamy poem leading up to the half-hour long title track “The Seer,” with its dissonant bagpipe opening. The bagpipes fade, and by seven minutes in, a driving surf rhythm appears with the mantra “I see all.” The rhythm washes out with the tide and a few crashing drum choruses make it sound like the song is ending, but it’s only another transition to a delayed and phase-shifted guess at what space would sound like, if space had air. The bagpipe returns, wounded and bleeding, a tribal chant replaces it, and we slide into the sequel. “The Seer Returns” opens with a mystical mantra and Mr. Gira chants, “My life pours into your mouth, your life pours into my mouth.” Heavy. “93 Ave. Blues” is filled with squealing brass and a slowly plodding cello; I’m not so much depressed by it as annoyed. We wrap disc one with “The Daughter Brings the Water,” a nice acoustic tune in the style of early Neil Young, and I dare to say I “get” this cut.

Karen O sings a gentle song to start disc two. “Song for a Warrior” picks up the gentle accessible pace of the track that closed disc one. “Avatar” then goes deep weird, a repeated change of bells is gradually overtaken by more slowly rising guitar work and more and more insistent drums. The drums peak, then lower to allow more cyclic vocal work, that too fades, and we are back to just the bells. The long track here is “A Piece of the Sky,” synthetic raindrops on a tin roof fall, and when the digital storm stops, a cello begins to drone as voices call occasionally over this ominous assemblage. Higher tones clatter together, giving us a not unpleasant sound, just a sound that seems to need more context. Half-way through this 20-minute E-ticket ride a more traditional melody takes over. It’s pleasant, if a bit long and winding, until the vocals appear, now we have a coherent piece of poetry inquiring “Are You There?” Yes, I’m still here, I’m committed to the project, and there’s one more track, the impressive 23-minute “The Apostate.” More classic outer space sound arrives, slide whistles pass by, a march makes us feel like we are in the Mines of Moria, and six minutes later the Orcs attack. The battle rises and falls as the background drone hangs on and we must repel one more vocal assault. Light appears around the bend, there’s only a drum duet between snares and congas, and… over.

At two hours, and you ought to get a free t-shirt for sitting through this asonic collage. Let’s grab a beer.

Swans: swans.pair.com

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