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Soundtracks for the Blind

by Swans

Released October 22, 1996 via Young God Records

Reviewed October 12, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Helpless Child (77%), The Sound (48%), I Was A Prisoner In Your Skull (28%)

After 15 years of composing, recording, releasing and performing, experimental rock collective Swans finally decided to hang their coats and call it a day, but not before one last ambitious sendoff. Soundtracks for the Blind is the score for “a non-existent film,” surpassing the need for any awards season with such grit and emotive turbulence. Scathing drone, ambient field recordings and calculated post-rock are inflected with elements of punk, musique concrete, industrial and even techno-electronic for brief moments. It’s a true sound collage of various mediums, from conversations recorded directly in-studio to scratched, tattered tapes, moulding whilst being sampled, providing a simultaneously brutal and tranquil atmosphere. This album delivers something you’d feel sitting in a shallow puddle of dirt at night, finding peace in the water between your fingers and in the rhythm of the rain on the hood of your coat. The dirt under your nails, your sodden clothes sticking to your skin, and how hard that rain feels as if it’s punching whatever’s exposed. Soundtracks for the Blind exemplifies this coexistence through noise and drone, additionally expanding post-rock, sound collage, and industrial to new heights. A momentous occasion in music that, even 25 years later, still sounds state of the art. – Cam (10/10)

Clocking in at two and a half hours, there’s not enough time or words to accurately capture what makes Soundtracks for the Blind arguably the greatest musical recording ever. The album slowly pulls the listener into its world, before slowly devouring and spitting them out at the other end. Michael Gira and company craft a Frankenstein monster of musical menagerie Soundtracks for the Blind; one that is equally frightening, beautiful and awe-inspiring. From gargantuan post rock epics and ambient drone pieces, to dark house beats and skin crawling found sound collage, SFTB is continually morphing without ever leaving its own depravity. Soundtrack for the Blind truly classifies itself as one of those albums that’s an experience rather than a casual listen; there’s nothing that comes close to hitting the soul quite like this record does. – Jared (10/10)

Soundtracks for the Blind is often regarded as Swans’ magnum opus, encapsulating pretty much everything that the band has personified since their inception in 1982. As a long-haul record, full of malignant material designed to eat away at your inner walls, Soundtracks for the Blind stands alone in presence and persistent decay. Sentient soundscapes embellish the record's runtime, scathing through gritted teeth. Acerbic scabs fester and froth, as Michael Gira and company produce a piece of work within a world unto itself. Malevolence has never been so concisely manifested in sonic form. Composed of pieces of material––tapes, loops, recordings––collected over the 15 years of Swans’ career to that point, SFTB functions as a movie for the mind's eye. Gira's subtle, and somewhat malevolent, touch brings forth life's woes into weeping view. A wicked deluge of dust circles over head, constant threats of rain and desert storms persist over the 140 minute journey. – Peter (8.5/10)

Cam: 10/10 | Jared: 10/10 | DeVán: 9.3/10 | Dominick: 8.5/10 | Peter: 8.5/10


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