The latest 2CD release from an old-time favorite “heavy” band of mine — Swans — is just astounding. Swans disbanded in 1997 (the year I saw them live in Philly, when Jarboe was still a regular member) and then reformed in 2010, if I’ve got my facts “all lined up.” In that year (2010) they released a very good, though not quite “classic,” IMO, reunion CD that I listened to regularly for a while and then more or less stopped playing in favor of other, newer things by other artists. This release, however, is destined to be on repeat-play for a good while into the future, I think.
At nearly two hours, “The Seer” features several long tracks that are reminiscent of some of the work Swans did on “Soundtracks for the Blind” (which, to date, had been my favorite Swans release), except overall heavier/more intense (yes, that’s right), and minus the drones/taped conversations that were featured so prominently on “SftB,” which gave it its soundtrack-esque feel. (EDIT: The first half of “A Piece of the Sky” is actually pretty drone-like, though what I meant was that the CD isn’t interspersed with “drone” pieces the way that “SftB” is.)
The title track, “The Seer” — which is the longest single track on the album — runs for 32:14, while “Apostate,” @ 23:01, is almost like listening to early Swans in terms of its noise/intensity, though it’s more textured and, therefore, more interesting than, say, an early, repetitive track such as “Money is Flesh.” There are also a few shorter tracks on the two discs worth mentioning, particularly “The Daughter Brings the Water” (2:41), which might have been a strong outtake from one of the more melodic Angels of Light albums, and “Song for a Warrior” (3:58), which features rather laid-back, almost countrified lead vocals from the always-excellent Karen O. (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and also a guest vocalist on two top-notch 2011 releases: David Lynch’s “Crazy Clown Time” and Reznor/Ross’s sdtk. to “The Girl w/the Dragon Tattoo”). I should also mention that the inimitable Jarboe is credited with a “voice collage” on the track “A Piece of the Sky” (19:10). Though her usually distinctive vocals aren’t quite as recognizable here as on her contributions to other Gira-related works, such as “The Body Lovers,” it’s nice to recognize that she and Michael G. are apparently not adverse to working together these days.
There is also a 3 disc version of this release, which includes a live DVD, but, sadly, that version was not available when I ordered my copy, so I can’t comment on the live material. But: I can definitely say that the 2CD studio album is every bit as good as any “classic” Swans album I own. And that’s saying a lot.