FACTmag

The 50 Best Albums of 2012

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09: SWANS
THE SEER
(YOUNG GOD)


‘The Seer Returns’

In 2010, Michael Gira reformed Swans and released My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, the project’s first album since the mid-1990s and a record that seemed too good – too powerful, too passionate – to be a comeback. In 2012, they bettered it.

Despite its size, at almost two hours in length with a 32-minute title track at its centre, The Seer isn’t a difficult record. Difficult to find the time to listen to, sure, but the process is never anything less than a pleasure. Gira spoke frequently about the importance of Swans as a live project in the year leading up to The Seer – a period where the group were regularly playing shows that lasted two or three hours – referring to “the elation, the joy of being inside the swirl, this [addictive] maelstrom of sound” in an interview with FACT. It shows: The Seer doesn’t just capture Swans at their most physical, with mountainous, muscular grooves driving its songs forward, it also appears to capture Gira in the conductor, or band leader role, before than that of a writer. Yes, there are lyrics, and at times they’re incredibly affecting, but The Seer is a record about forces before it is thoughts, and at points it seems to make time fold in on itself.

The Seer may go down as Michael Gira’s masterwork – in his own words, the album that took him 30 years to make – but even though the band (and supporting cast of Ben Frost, Karen O, Jane Jarboe and more) don’t march to the beat of anybody’s drum but his, it’s also an example of the alleged tyrant publicly giving in to music as his keeper. “It’s like a little bit of ecstasy every day…a quasi-religious experience.”

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