Swans | Soundtracks for the Blind | Review

CMJ | Jon Fine

CMJ February 1997 critic pick for the month

Soundtracks for the Blind is the final studio album from SWANS, and though it's impossible to imagine a document that could provide a summing up to their 15 years recorded output, this two-hour-plus double CD (budget priced and beautifully packaged) covers enough ground to serve as an apt final testament. The cast of characters here includes old-school SWANS Norman Westberg and Al Kizys as well as Vudi late of American Music Club. Like recent SWANS shows, Soundtracks for the Blind's peaks approach a religious intensity. The orchestral sweep and lyrical bent of "Helpless Child" and "The Sound" (which cumulatively clock in at almost 30 minutes) best exemplify the approach, but, like few other multi-disc sets, the whole coheres better than its individual parts. Strewn throughout the album are lengthy instrumental passages, sundry soundscapes and drone pieces, some of which bubble under recorded monologues—children's chants, the ruminations of an old man losing his sight—in a cliched-sounding combination that works much better than you'd expect. A tour will follow in early 1997, and it's hard to imagine anyone interested in the more adventurous aspects and history of the independent rock scene not wanting to be there.