Sunday, 9 September 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #304 - Swans, "The Seer"

Swans are scary - both bird and band. No news there.

"The childhood/Is over" Michael rumbles. It's that big, adult theatrical voice that The Residents use - and these scary, Apocalyptic bands. As someone who smells the Apocalypse round every corner, this is the kind of soundtrack that I cross the street to avoid, to step away from its dark, lengthening shadows. "Mother of the World", yeah? Big titles for biiiggg songs with epic themes on tectonic scales.

But there's something about the cabaret intonations that put me off the music. Maybe it's too wide an experience for me to be comfortable with. I think I get a sense of the carnival, the body writ gigantic - and I am not a fan of the body, whatever size. "The Seer" is a massive thirty-minute track that opens with a knotted mass of strings, pipes, percussion and deep, dread sawing noises. And the dread never leaves - even when the tubular bells arrive. I don't want to know what The Seer sees. And yet I hum along in most rumbliest hum.

"The Seer Returns" has more of a quasi-funky, club-footed shuffle about it. "Your life pours into my mouth/My life pours out of my mouth" It's a snaky ourbourous of a tune. And it's followed by more tension, centred around an incredibly cutting and squeaky instrument on "93 Ave. Blues". It's another mythical beast of a tune, more creatures stepping out of ancient lore. Perhaps that is what I'm not quite sure about - the mythology of this music doesn't really speak to me. It's street corners and blood and stormclouds; I'm more of an Apollo type.

"Song for a Warrior" starts off the second part, sounds like Karen O on the vocals. The second part on the whole is lighter, still urgent - but with more soaring and less grinding. But before long, this too builds up another intensity. By the end of "Avatar", it has a howling wind of sound gritting its teeth and wiping away tall buildings. "A Piece of the Sky" is more high intensity noise of heavenly chorus, ratcheted up to painful levels. It's twenty minutes long, but halfway through it shifts away from noise to something that I don't have the musicological chops to probably describe. "Apostate" is BritPop by comparison - five seven inch singles that get stick together with the word "space cunt" shouted over the middle. It cacophones and it gibbers - bad primate business seen out by a minute of drums like heavy rain.


Rating: Tubular Dread out of Tectonic Scale

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