Swans | Soundtracks for the Blind | Review

Melody Maker | Jonathan Selzer

like fragments from a world whose foundations are in the last stages of erosion

So this is it, the last album proper by my favourite, most fatalistic band, a band who could give rise to the most transcendent of feelings only because they'd detail their own limits with such meticulous care, a band who sensed such overwhelming destiny they were stricken by it. The first time I played a Swans record, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Listening to them now, ravaged, wretched, as terminal a document for the millenium as you'll ever encounter, they sound as though they're beyond belief, as tragic as an unrequited martyr.

"Soundtracks For The Blind" is what's left now that all Swans' endeavour has burnt itself out. It's composed from shreds—tape loops, "found" samples, recorded testimonies of spiritually lost mid-Westerners—isolated moments blended together, like fragments from a world whose foundations are in the last stages of erosion. When they do become galvanised, it's not through any will of their own, so much as from a final, dying vision—but it's a glorious and redemptive vision, succumbing to an overpowering feeling of loss. Michael Gira has never sounded quite as raw, as naked as this. His voice is now a riddled rasp. "Animus" is as noble and as disconsolate as Judy Garland's last performances, with hopeless longing to match.

Swans are way ahead of you. They've already reached the point of post-millennial tension. Majestic in its scope, pathetic in its humanity, "Soundtracks For The Blind" fulfils Swans' irrevocable fate and their tragedy, that they'd surpass themselves. Into oblivion.