The Seer – Swans (2012)


Album artwork for The Seer

Alright, so I’m going to go ahead and give it to you straight.  The Seer, released in August by experimental rock band Swans, is a masterpiece.  It is probably one of the most brilliantly constructed albums I’ve heard all year.  It is a journey in meditation – a mental experience as much as an auditory one.  And it becomes more and more enriching of an experience with each new listen.  Every time I press play, I perceive it in even more detail, and pick up on more subtleties than I did the previous time.  According to the band’s frontman Michael Gira, the album took “30 years to make.  It’s the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I’ve ever made, been involved in or imagined.”  This is something that becomes immediately evident.  A seemingly carelessly-laid assortment of eclectic sounds, reexamined, becomes an elaborate array of intriguing sounds and samples, with each element in its proper place.

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking.  You’re not really into the whole noise rock scene.  You might even rather listen to a baby screaming all night long.  But here’s the thing about post-rock.  It’s about composing soundscapes.  It’s not so much about writing catchy music or fast-paced songs.  It’s about the cumulative experience.  And with The Seer clocking out at the two hour mark, it’s definitely a thoroughly-thought-out experience.  Thom Jurek sums it up pretty accurately in his review: “it is not an endurance test, but an argument for compulsive listening.  It’s an exquisitely wrought journey through post-rock, electronic soundscapes, haunting acoustic songs, punishing noise, and (lots of) percussion.”  This style of music is not one that frequently attracts the casual listener.  It has a much more meaningful effect once you understand the philosophy behind it, and that can only be achieved by surrendering yourself to the music.  Take in everything that you hear with an unbiased ear.  Once you can do that, you can reap the pleasures of that artist’s creative mind.

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