Swans
Soundtracks for the Blind


5.0
classic

Review

by YoYoMancuso USER (44 Reviews)
November 8th, 2012 | 64 replies | 3,685 views


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "There's been a lot of upsetting, very upsetting things, that I can't allow to happen anymore. I have to be like a soldier and march away."

8 of 8 thought this review was well written

The ability to make music that is truly lasting and moving is something few artists possess. Michael Gira has more of this ability in his left ring finger than most other musicians have in their whole bodies. The man's been all over the map, making some of the most relentless, brutal music ever made, crossing over into melancholic acoustic post-punk territory, experimenting with drones and loops, and commandeering one of the most misunderstood groups in music with such impact and force that the sounds they produce draw you in like a magnet, slowly dragging your further and further into the abyss without so much as a struggle. Soundtracks For The Blind is all about this feeling.

For 141 harrowing minutes, Michael Gira and his resident sidekick Jarboe toy with the listener, expanding their musical horizons and experimenting with previously unused and near-revolutionary musical techniques. This album has an atmosphere so dense it almost opens another dimension to the listener. It's amazing and truly applause-worthy how Swans made 2 and a half hours of music so engrossing and original. This album will never let you move so far as a step away from its crushing tonalities and winding, truly horrifying ambience and heart-stopping dissonant noise. With compositions ranging from the orchestral and bombastic ("Helpless Child") to the slow-building and emotionally burning ("The Final Sacrifice") Swans truly outdo themselves with Soundtracks For The Blind, a farewell letter from a band that accomplished so much within so little time.

The album is split between Michael Gira compositions, Jarboe compositions, and previously unused recordings that were layered and spliced on top of one another to create heart-stopping rhythms and tunes, such as in "The Beautiful Days" or the heartbreaking "How They Suffer". There's always something going on in this record, whether it be moody, steadily building droning ambience, warm keyboards, Gira's signature hit-the-floor-octave drawl, or the eye-opening, triumphant swirls of electric guitar, Soundtracks For The Blind will engulf you in everything that it's offering, never letting a single second of its bleak canvas go unnoticed. Even when the compositions stretch to uncanny lengths (the best example of this point would be "The Sound") Swans know how to keep it interesting. The mind-numbing repetition on the extended tracks is carried out to the point where the motifs and layers are exciting and glorious, then tedious and overlong, and all of a sudden when they explode into a new section of the song, they become the most epic and triumphant thing the listener has ever heard put to record.

As a whole song, "The Sound" is the best example of this, a 13-minute post-rock nightmare complete with pounding, tribal drumbeats, unearthly ambience backing the whole groove up, Gira's upsetting, melancholic vocals and otherworldly bursts of dynamic and emotional glory. However, nothing encapsulates this feeling better than the final section of the perfect "Helpless Child". The last seven minutes of this orchestral masterwork are breathtaking in every which way, whether it be the powerfully strummed electric, the hypnotic samples tying everything together, or the punch to the gut of a percussion arrangement, accented by the steady crescendos at the end of every phrase. The album feeds off of moments of euphoria in this way; the slow fade-in of the acoustic on "Live Through Me", the bombastic dynamics of "All Lined Up", the dark yet uplifting opening to "Secret Friends", and the slow descent of "Red Velvet Wound" from an airy dream pop tune into an ambient night-terror are all examples of how Soundtracks is such a dangerous album for the mind, one so full of hope yet so dragged down by sorrow and fear that it is unflinching in its depictions of these emotions.

The album occasionally offers a slight break from the madness, with "Blood Section" and "Fan's Lament" both being quick, memorable tunes easily recognizable by their light guitar hooks and foot-tapping beats. However, Swans keeps the listening experience of Soundtracks mainly about keeping one on their toes, and boy do they succeed. As I stated earlier, there is nothing in this album you will see coming, and 98% of it will affect the listener in its own special way. The moment when you will realize how special this album is and/or is going to be will probably be halfway through "I Was A Prisoner In Your Skull", as it ebbs and flows from a genuinely disturbing ambient intro to a twisting post-rock section, and back into the unknown with one of the most unsettling voice samples I've heard.

Jarboe's father was an FBI agent-after his death, she inherited a number of his private tapes, many of which were used on the record. The lonely, depraved voices accompanying the soundscapes are just as integral to the album as the instrumentation is. "The Beautiful Days" would not be complete without the inscrutable yet inspiring sound bite at the end, which reminds the listener that things are only disgusting and repulsive if that's the way they choose to see it. "How They Suffer" would not be the harrowing experience it is without the heart-wrenching interviews Michael Gira and Jarboe conducted with their father and mother, respectively. "Her Mouth Is Filled With Honey" is easily the most horrifying thing on this record, and the barely audible entity speaking to you only amplifies this terror. "Minus Something" features the same man who talked at the end of "The Beautiful Days" attempting to "be like a soldier and march away", and not let himself be pushed around so easily. But that's the thing about Soundtracks-this album pushes you around like a schoolyard bully, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. This is what makes Swans' final effort from their first lineup so compelling, and why I think it is absolutely essential to anyone who claims to enjoy music.

I cannot give this album anything less than a 5. It is one of few albums I think truly lives up a to a classic standard, and is one of the most memorable and ridiculously twisted listening experiences I've ever embarked upon. Buy this album now or forever hold your peace, as I believe it is something everyone should hear.

5/5.

Recommended Tracks (asterisk signifies best track on disc 1 and disc 2: 2 asterisks signifies best track on whole thing)
Disc 1
I Was A Prisoner In Your Skull
Helpless Child**
The Beautiful Days
All Lined Up
How They Suffer
Animus

Disc 2
The Sound
Her Mouth Is Filled With Honey
Minus Something
Empathy
Secret Friends
The Final Sacrifice*



Recent reviews by this author
Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties We Don't Have Each OtherThe Smashing Pumpkins Gish
Unwound New Plastic IdeasRx Bandits The Resignation
Soundgarden SuperunknownBoards of Canada Tomorrow's Harvest
user ratings (559)
Chart.
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
Alxander19 (5)
You'll never escape....

Cam EMERITUS (4.5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
demigod!
November 7th 2012



44130 Comments


Wow that's hilarious I was literally just about to listen to this for the first time ever

Digging: Failure - Magnified

YoYoMancuso
November 7th 2012



11006 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

what are you waiting for? go, young padawan

demigod!
November 7th 2012



44130 Comments


well i gotta wait for the new Deftones to finish but as soon as thats done my journey into darkness and void will begin

YoYoMancuso
November 7th 2012



11006 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it's perfect that you're listening to this late at night too (unless you don't live in America)

demigod!
November 7th 2012



44130 Comments


Canada and yeah it's pretty damn late. I gotta find a good game to play while listening though

YoYoMancuso
November 7th 2012



11006 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Have you heard any other Swans? Because this might be an awkward place to start, I remember I thought this was so mediocre when I first heard it in August

demigod!
November 7th 2012



44130 Comments


No but I've listened to a fair bit of experimental music,I think i'll be ok

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2012



19642 Comments


good review man pos . haven't heard this one

YoYoMancuso
November 7th 2012



11006 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

alright, good luck to both you and your kramer avatar

thanks atari, i don't know if you would like this but you can decide whether to go for it based on my and others' descriptions of what this sounds like

Ecnalzen
November 7th 2012



6495 Comments


Awesome review. Never listened to this band, but I've heard a little bit about them. I am just new to post-rock in general, I guess.

demigod!
November 7th 2012



44130 Comments


this is pretty weird so far
Wish I had better headphones

GiaNXGX
November 7th 2012



4867 Comments


Classic record, one of Swans' best. I pos'd simply for the fact that reviewing this album is unbearably hard. Soundtrack for the Blind is a true classic, of all the "long" albums out there (except Robert Rich's Somnium), I strongly belief this one doesn't contains any filler - Everything is 100% awesome & engaging to listen to. Good thing that you're digging it. Have you heard White Light/Is this your 1st Swans record?

demigod!
November 8th 2012



44130 Comments


okay i was a prisoner in your skull is freaking me out

GiaNXGX
November 8th 2012



4867 Comments


Wish I had better headphones

I thought the same back when I used cheap sony earphones. Try purchasing the cd and listen to it using a couple of HD-598's. (that's what I did.)

YoYoMancuso
November 8th 2012



11006 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

GiaNXGX: I got into Swans about 3 months ago. Here's the order I heard their albums in (at least the ones I heard so far).

The Seer
Children Of God
Filth
Soundtracks
Cop
Holy Money
White Light

demigod!
November 8th 2012



44130 Comments


yeah as soon as i get the money I"m gonna get some kickass headphones. These ones work fine for the time being though, surprisingly good sound out of these little earbuds, just not a lot of bass



GiaNXGX
November 8th 2012



4867 Comments


yeah, it sucks when you can't hear the bass, especially when you're into punchy music.

@Jack. Oh, you've heard like 25% of their discog, fair enough. Good luck listening to their live albums, Gira is fucking insane haha. I love the lyrics from White Light and this one, best swans lyrics imo. Children of God had some great verses but they just keep'd droning on & on & on....... And they weren't as deep as White Light's or as emotional as Soundtracks'

Ecnalzen
November 8th 2012



6495 Comments


Damn, that's only a 1/4 of their music?

YoYoMancuso
November 8th 2012



11006 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nah it's 7 of their 12 studio albums, but their live albums are apparently just as essential and powerful as their studio work.

Ecnalzen
November 8th 2012



6495 Comments


Cool. I just started up a playlist up with some Swans and Godspeed. Should be an interesting listen.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy