Soundtracks for the Blind

Soundtracks for the Blind is the tenth studio album by Swans, and the last released until 2010's My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky. It was released as a double CD in 1996, through Young God Records. Soundtracks for the Blind was intended, as suggested by the title, to function as a sort of "soundtrack for a non-existent film", and is Swans' most varied studio effort.

Soundtracks for the Blind
Soundtracks for the Blind.jpg
Studio album (double album) by
Released22 October 1996
Recorded1981 – 1996
LabelYoung God
ProducerMichael Gira, Jarboe (track 7)
Swans chronology
Die Tür ist zu
Soundtracks for the Blind
Swans Are Dead
Singles from Soundtracks for the Blind
  1. "Failure" / "Animus"
    Released: 1996

A reissue of the album was released on July 20, 2018, marking the first time Soundtracks for the Blind was released on vinyl.[3]


Much of the album is tied together with audio collage works and sample-based textural pieces recorded at various times and places, as well as the use of previous Swans material (such as the lyrics of "Your Property" from Cop for "YRP"). On this, frontman Michael Gira said in 1997:

I've always been interested in different sounds like that and listened to Brian Eno and different kinds of music that use non-musical sources often, and as I made this record I had a lot of that material: those loops and things I'd made from '81; I had vocal loops that Jarboe had made in 1985 on a little sixteen second digital delay unit which was actually the first sampler... we had these tape narrations we'd been collecting, that she got from her father's desk when he was an FBI agent – surveillance tapes; I interviewed my father because I'm interested in his life, and took a little snippet of his experiences... then we had new things we'd recorded with our 'band' from the last tour; and some stuff we did for a soundtrack for a film. I threw all those into the computer and assembled it that way. So, in some things, there's something from 1981 playing simultaneously with something from '85 playing simultaneously with something from 1996. It's cross-faded and blended and mixed so to speak in the computer, cut-up and sometimes looped and reversed.[4]

On the Young God Records page for "Soundtracks for the Blind", Gira wrote this in 2008 about the general experience of making the album:

This double CD album has everything in there – all the ideas from Swans’ 15 years of work. There’s some contemporary recordings of the band as it existed in ‘96/7, with Larry Mullins on drums/percussion, Jarboe singing and playing keyboards, Vudi playing electric guitar, and Joe Goldring playing bass and electric guitar, and me singing and playing electric and acoustic guitar, but there’s also a huge amount of sounds and recordings that I (and a few by Jarboe here too) collected over the years. These are reassembled, looped, mangled, and in many cases overdubbed upon to create new pieces of music. Being the “artist” in this case, it’s hard for me to talk about this one, because the memory is so laden (or burdened!) with the experience of making this thing. I guess what I’m trying to say here is I almost had a heart attack making it (slightly kidding here). It was just overwhelming. I really set my own trap, dug my own grave on this one. There was SO MUCH material to deal with, to sift through (whole trunks full of decomposing, moldy cassettes and discs with samples and sounds), and the task of making it into something coherent was at times debilitating. Really like climbing up a mountain of sand. I don’t remember why I set this goal for myself, to somehow incorporate such a ridiculously disparate amount of material. I think maybe it was so I could justify throwing all that crap into the local dump, which is what I did when I finished the album. But in the end, after centuries of picking at this huge iceberg of material with a toothpick, my trusty engineer Chris Griffin and I managed to sculpt something out of it. It actually breathes, seems to live, in most places I think. There’s a press release below written by Kurt at Atavistic (Swans label at the time), and some reviews too, which might give you a better idea of how this sounds. Anyway, in the end, I was elated with this music, both because I liked it and because finishing it meant I could finally lay Swans to rest after 15 years. In my case, I’m always happiest when I’m leaving.[5]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]
MusicHound     [9]
Sputnikmusic     [7]
Terrorizer     [8]

Soundtracks for the Blind has been met with acclaim by critics. Terrorizer magazine wrote, "Gira has painstakingly recorded and produced this magnus [sic] opus with a ferocious attention to detail. Above all, it sounds phenomenal".[8] AllMusic called Soundtracks for the Blind "[Swans'] best album ever".[6]


Source Country Accolade Rank
Terrorizer UK 100 Most Important Albums Of The Nineties -[10]
Ned Raggett USA The Top 136 Albums of the Nineties 75[11]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Michael Gira, unless noted.

Disc One (Silver)
1."Red Velvet Corridor" 3:04
2."I Was a Prisoner in Your Skull" 6:39
3."Helpless Child" 15:47
4."Live Through Me" 2:32
5."Yum-Yab Killers"Jarboe5:07
6."The Beautiful Days" 7:49
8."Mellothumb" 2:46
9."All Lined Up" 4:48
10."Surrogate 2"Gira, Jarboe1:52
11."How They Suffer" 5:52
12."Animus" 10:41
Total length:72:06
Disc Two (Copper)
13."Red Velvet Wound"Jarboe2:02
14."The Sound" 13:11
15."Her Mouth Is Filled With Honey"Gira, Jarboe3:19
16."Blood Section" 2:39
17."Hypogirl" 2:44
18."Minus Something"Gira, Jarboe4:14
19."Empathy" 6:45
20."I Love You This Much" 7:23
21."YRP" 7:47
22."Fan's Lament" 1:28
23."Secret Friends"Gira, Jarboe3:08
24."The Final Sacrifice" 10:27
25."YRP 2" 2:09
26."Surrogate Drone" 2:06
Total length:69:31


Credits for Soundtracks for the Blind adapted from liner notes.[12]

  • Michael Gira - vocals, guitar, samples, sounds, loops, producer (all tracks except "Volcano")
  • Jarboe - vocals, sounds, loops, producer (on "Volcano")
  • Norman Westberg - additional musician
  • Algis Kizys - additional musician
  • Bill Rieflin - additional musician
  • Christoph Hahn - additional musician
  • Clinton Steele - additional musician
  • Larry Lame - additional musician, mixing and recording
Guest Musicians
  • Joe Goldring - electric guitar, bass guitar (on tracks 3, 5, 9, 12, 14, 19, 24, and 25)
  • Vudi - electric guitar, acoustic guitar (on tracks 3, 5, 9, 12, 14, 19, 24, and 25)
  • Larry Mullins - drums, percussion, vibraphone (on tracks 3, 5, 9, 12, 14, 19, 24, and 25)
  • Cris Force - viola (on "Animus" and "YRP")
Additional Personnel
  • Billy Anderson - mixing and recording
  • Chris Griffin - mixing, mastering and recording
  • Martin Bisi - mixing and recording
  • Andy Ray - live engineer on "Yum-Yab Killers", "I Love You This Much", "The Final Sacrifice" and "YRP 2"


  1. ^ Isachs. "Recorded Music: Swans, "Soundtracks for the Blind" (Young God, 1996)". Reviewing the Arts, Columbia College Chicago. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  2. ^ joshuatree. "Swans - Soundtracks for the Blind". sputnikmusic. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  3. ^ "Soundtracks For The Blind (Remastered 2018) PREORDER". YOUNG GOD RECORDS. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  4. ^ "Swans | M. Gira | Interview". Archived from the original on February 10, 2013. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  5. ^ "Soundtracks for the Blind | M. Gira | Interview". Archived from the original on July 13, 2015. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Soundtracks for the Blind – Swans : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  7. ^ "Review: Swans – Soundtracks for the Blind | Sputnikmusic". July 26, 2008.
  8. ^ a b Terry, Nick. "[Terrorizer review]". Terrorizer. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  9. ^ MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (1996)
  10. ^ " Magazine..." Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  11. ^ "Ned's Nineties: 75". March 5, 2004. Archived from the original on March 5, 2004. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  12. ^ Track listing and credits as per liner notes for Soundtracks for the Blind album

External linksEdit