Swans: Filth

Released in 1983, Filth was the debut studio album by Swans, a cynically brutal record, noisy and dark that obviously influenced many contemporary post-punk/experimental/avant-garde acts in the years that  followed.

Simple in its conception, yet truly original and groundbreaking, Filth finds Swans’ mastermind Michael Gira going insane over his two drummers’ heavy beats. Gira has a bone to pick with the human race and he’s always in search of the most nihilistic ways to do so. It begun a year earlier with their eponymous debut EP and continued with this one, in a time when alternative music, from alternative rock and post-punk to metal, was pretty much dark and quite emotional.

Take it from Gira himself:

“This is all slabs of sound, rhythm and  screaming/testifying. What more do you need? In a way, it was a reaction against Punk (and just about any other music you can think of), and the conservative notion that 3 chords were somehow necessary. I used to deny it  vehemently at the time, but No Wave (I “hated” that scene too, for some  reason I can’t remember now) played a big role as the germ from which this  music grew, along with The Stooges and Throbbing Gristle, of course. I  wanted Swans to be “heavier” though – I wanted the music to obliterate -  why, I don’t remember! I think it just felt good.  Live, we used two  basses (playing utterly unmusical chords that were stabbed and left to  sustain or sometimes hit in staccato or opposing rhythms), drums, a  “percussionist” that slammed down on a metal table with a metal strap, crude  cassette loops of various sounds/noises (usually some kind of undefined  ROAR), and Norman Westberg’s glorious sustained and screaming guitar chords.  It was pretty elating to play live – for us. If 100 people showed up (which  would have been a huge audience at the time – 20 was more the average), 80  were guaranteed to leave by the second song. Somehow that tension – contempt  or indifference from the audience – was nourishing, so we kept going.

Here’s some music I was listening to at the time:  Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, The Stooges, Brian Eno, Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, DNA, The Contortions, Glenn Branca, Black Flag, early Pink Floyd,  This Heat, Kraftwerk, The Germs, Cabaret Voltaire, Can, Public Image LTD.,  SPK… ”

Picture Gira walking throught the streets of New York and try to see through his eyes. Try to feel the hatred, the irony and the fear the fellow human beings around cause you to feel.

21 years after its release, Filth can now be considered a classic album while still being as relevant as it was in 1983. A new remastered version of the album is going to be released on October 28th on vinyl and on double CD (paired with Body To Body, Job to Job) via Young God Records.

Listen to the album in its entirety below…

Pre-order the 2014 remastered version of Filth

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