SWANS //

THE SEER (Young God)

18/20

Swans’ second album since reforming after a 13-year hiatus sees the band on blistering, career-best form, a sprawling monolith of a record which lurches between bludgeoning noise, woozily lilting Gothic Americana, drone and bastardised Eastern motif-appropriation. Michael Gira’s skill here is in simultaneously unsettling the listener and generating auras of the divine through multi-textured aural landscapes. This is done largely through propulsive rhythmic repetition and an approach to dynamics involving a consistent build-and-release. Apocalyptic Westernism might be an appropriate term for the sound Swans generate, constructions often complemented by Gira’s weary baritone and spiritual-hinting lyrics. But The Seer maintains a wealth of expansion around the clattering walls of noise. The Daughter Brings the Water and Song For A Warrior are alt-country-inflected calms in the storm, while 93 Ave. B Blues commences with something of a free-jazz freakout before shifting to a more conventional drone onslaught. Still, it’s more textbook tracks such as Avatar and A Piece of Sky – replete with Skelton-esque strings and unexpected flutters of chimes – which best convey Swans’ inimitable brute power.

 

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Words: Tom Howells

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