Swans

Soundtracks for the Blind

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AllMusic Review by

Choosing to extinguish the band name under which Gira and Jarboe had worked together for so long must not have been an easy step, but when they decided to end Swans with one last studio release as a prelude to a farewell tour, they did so with what turned out to be their biggest and best album ever. Interestingly, the double-disc, two-and-a-half-hour long Soundtracks makes no pretensions at being a uniform creation like The White Album or Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; Gira's own notes indicate the song sources as being from "hand-held cassette recordings to found sounds, to samples, to loops, to finished multitrack recordings," recorded with ten different musicians. Everything from raging electric music in extreme to the gentlest of acoustic strums can be found here, ultimately being a perfect encapsulation of Swans' sound -- as much as any greatest-hits anthology could ever have been. "The Helpless Child," the epic-length Gira-sung piece previewed on Die Tür ist Zu, amazingly gets an even more brilliant revision here, while another similarly lengthy track, "The Sound," at once roars and whispers over its length in a way that early Swans -- much less many other bands -- could never have done. Other tracks continue Swans' then-recent practice of mixing random taped conversations with exquisitely arranged performances: "I Was a Prisoner in Your Skull" is especially noteworthy as the clear forerunner of Godspeed you Black Emperor!'s entire musical approach. Jarboe's own tracks are all winners, from the fractured, tempo-shifting techno of "Volcano" to the howling live version of a solo album track from Sacrificial Cake, "Yum-Yab Killers." Ending on the unexpected yet appropriate "Surrogate Drone," Soundtracks lets Swans bow out from recording on the highest note possible.

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