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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

on 14 December 2001
As the old reviewers' cliché goes, Soundtracks for the Blind is a "sprawling masterpiece." Over more than 120 minutes, Swans give up the ghost in a most magnificent series of sobs. If you can bear it, Soundtracks is best appreciated in one listening session, however masochistic that may seem.

The two CDs contain a vast orchestral piece built around the eerie sound of the drone, interspersed with beautiful songs and recorded voices held together by cinematic fragments and interludes. The sound moves from the Wagnerian symphonic to the most overwhelming heavy rock, as on the live track YRP, with many interweaving textures in between. Of course, this music can be emotionally overpowering in its relentless despair, but it also contains beautiful moments of resignation and transcendence.

My personal favorites on the "Silver" CD include Helpless Child with its powerful juxtaposition of utter desolation & courageous affirmation of life, the surprisingly catchy ironic techno of Volcano with Jarboe's acerbic observations on rock stardom, and the moving How They Suffer, which contains two taped conversations - the first a monologue by Gira's father in which he discusses losing his sight, the second between Jarboe and her aged mother, on her deteriorating health.

The resigned tone of these voices encapsulates the mood of the album. Swans have always been experts at transforming sadness/horror into beauty and suffering into transcendence. Most chilling of all, this spooky, atmospheric version of All Lined Up is much grimmer than the one on Gira's Drainland album. On the "Copper" CD I love The Sound above all - 13 minutes of sonic splendor - and the atypically joyful, even rousing, instrumental called Blood Section. It's like the glorious Warm on The Great Annihilator, but without the menacing undertones.

On the rare The Body Lovers album, Gira went even deeper into uncharted territory. The flipside to this morbid but moving music is his post Swans project, Angels of Light, whose music is much more accessible although not always lighter in mood. Swans will always remain my favorite band among a select group of artists hard to classify together by musical style only: John Cale, Jane Siberry, Richard Thompson, Peter Murphy, Leonard Cohen, Kevin Coyne, Nick Cave, Nick Drake & Nico. Soundtracks for the Blind is both an epitaph & monument to one of the most extraordinary bands of the 20th century. Long may they live in solo projects and in The Angels of Light.
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on 11 April 2002
This, in the first listening, almost impenetrable double set is probably the best SWANS ever released. It contains strange sampled drones of weird voices, folk music etc. However, those are frameworks were the often very long songs with lyrics are embedded. The songs often start with very sparse backing music but ends in an amazing crescendo. The texts, as allways, are dealing with loneliness and despair.
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on 15 March 2013
Properly heavy, not 'heavy' in the sense that metal bands use it. It takes more than volume, down-tuning and distortion pedals to come close this kind of brutal uncompromising bleakness.
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on 22 November 2001
After having bought Various failures which comprised of well-crafted pop-goth songs I bought Soundtracks expecting more of the same. Instead of the neat arrangements & production this has a more live, spontaneous feel to it, a combination of spoken word, psychedelic noise type tracks, the occasional old-style punky number and a couple of long, slow, hauntingly beautiful tracks which almost remind one of recent Mercury Rev in there "child-like" quality. The CD is worth the money for these alone. Gira is the main vocalist apart from the odd Jarboe track.
Well reccomended.
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on 28 June 2011
Come on you prozac lovers!! Get ya feet tapping and sing along! I play this every morning to get myself up and ready for another beautiful happy wonderful day!
When I listen to this I can't wait for Surrogate Groan after my eighth cup of coffee to get me out of the door with a spring in my step and a smile on my face!!
Don't know much about Swans! Are they still alive? If they are they should get together and tour this album! What a reunion that would be!!
Interesting fact......There was a 50's doo wop band called the Swans as well!
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on 7 August 2005
"Soundtracks..." is the culmination of Swans' career and theoretically touches upon all the styles they ever had. In practice however, it is a continuation of "The Great Annihilator" (a masterpiece, by the way) dissolved in a slew of ambient pieces. Two of these kick off the first disc, winding their way into the gigantic weary heave of 'Helpless Child', then there's another build-up of glimmering acoustic guitar before the nastily urgent 'Yum-Yab Killers', and so on.
Were you to listen in a darkened room with the windows open to let in the freezing night air and with all your concentration muscles at absolute optimum power, this would without a doubt be the masterpiece everyone says it is. But how many of us have the time and energy to do that? Listened to in a conventional manner, "Soundtracks..." is uneven and disorienting.
Several of the instrumentals have a swirling, crashing chaos to them, like the birth or death of an entire planet - they're definitely not ambient in the Brian Eno sense. 'I Was A Prisoner In Your Skull' contains a hilarious spoken rant that ends on an intriguing cliffhanger. 'Hypnogirl' is terrifying; sung from the apparant POV of a parasitic worm (charming) in an inhuman snarl somewhere between a wicked witch and a rusty gate hinge; Jarboe continuing to be able to make all the death metal goons pee in their pants out of raw, hardcore fear. 'The Sound' is a breathtaking song, a cresting, oceanic roar.
But elsewhere, it's kinda difficult not to fidget. 'Empathy' and 'Animus' are certainly skeletal, tremulous post-rock things that anticipate Low, Sigur Ros, etc., but their utter lack of forward motion can make 'em seem tedious unless you're really in the mood. There's no pummelling industrial here; the 'intensity' comes from too big a dive into overwrought goth territory, all cavernous echo, brushed cymbals and Gira's astonishingly deep voice, which at times makes Nick Cave sound like Billy Corgan. The worst offender is 'YRP' which is almost inert for three-quarters of its length and pounds leadenly and joylessly for the final minute. The live stuff is poorly recorded (why not just include the studio versions?...it's a studio album, isn't it?) and Jarboe's 'Volcano', while great in theory and containing another malicious lyric about wanting to cannibalise Courtney Love (at least that's how I read it) is poorly mixed, with the techno-dance beats slowing up and speeding down in a presumably intentionally aggravating manner.
Like all double albums, then - loaded down with excess chaff.
It doesn't matter, though, because Swans were inherently magnificent and spectacular and pitilessly godlike even when they were annoying the hell out of you.
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on 3 September 2010
The Swans, largely a vehicle for leader Michael Gira's apocalyptic angst, were one of the most significant bands of the 1980s. 'Soundtracks For The Blind' (1996), is a masterpiece of abstract soundscapes and spectral textures. These forms represented a separate and welcome phase in the Swans sound which is basically a quest for a new spiritualist awakening. Soundtracks is a musical requiem for troubling times through which Gira's emotions were realized.
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