A triple album takes commitment. You have to flip that sumbitch five times! And it also means you probably want to plan to hang around for at least a couple hours to hear the whole thing. Now, me, I don’t actually have that many triple albums, only around six maybe? (for some reason I’ve never gotten around to picking up All Things Must Pass, though there aren’t that many must-buy triple-albums overall…) But the ones I have, I rarely hear the whole thing in one sitting. That’s pretty intense.
And yet, I’m not sure there’s another way to listen to Swans’ The Seer. It’s six sides of vinyl, more than half of which are taken up by just three compositions. Yeah, they’re long and intense and overwhelming, and require more patience than the average listener will likely give them. My brother once described their music as kind of like listening to a car alarm. He’s not that far off, but this is music that I find rewarding and compelling in ways that much other music isn’t.
I didn’t know much about Swans before they started back up in 2010 after a long hiatus, and discovered them through a record-club type feature that used to run on Treble called For the Record, wherein we’d each listen to five albums each month that we’d never heard before. It wasn’t that popular as a feature, but it was fun to do, and it introduced me to some cool stuff. Like Swans, whose Soundtracks for the Blind was probably not the best introduction (it’s really fucking weird) but then again, if you want to learn how to swim, maybe you have to be dropped into the deep end.
A few years later I ended up really loving their second post-reunion (if you can call it that) album, The Seer, and while on a shopping excursion in Portland I was hell-bent on finding it. I came up empty handed, so I ended up buying it on Amazon Prime from the hotel room, and it was on our doorstep when we got home.
I already knew the album, but listening to it on vinyl is an unusual experience. The tracklist is in a different order, and three of those super-long tracks are split in two on opposite sides. It’s almost as if they’re separate “songs” in that sense, often divided between abstract ambient pieces and more intense art rock numbers. There are also shorter songs, which feature members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Low, but they’re not quite as powerful as the big ones. And to commit yourself to hearing the whole thing in one sitting is like being in a sweat lodge or something. In a good way. It’s hard to explain.
This album isn’t necessarily for first time listeners, but it’s awesome, regardless. And a few years later, my band Blood Ponies ended up opening for former Swans drummer Thor Harris’ new band, and he said he liked my band, so that was pretty great.
Sound Quality: Great