Swans | Filth
Swans' first album Filth was the archetypal sound of apocalyptic scenarios and societal upheaval. The distorted mirror image of Britain's goth punk, Swans were barbarians and Filth was their tribal march. Featuring two drums and two basses Swans lacked melody producing an oppressive angst-ridden atmosphere. This was the intersection of Michael Gira's biography, cultural response and meaninglessness.
The No Wave, Noise Rock and Filth
A reaction against the commercial music of the new wave, No Wave germinated in down town New York. No Wave rejected the recycling of traditional rock tropes by mainline punk and sought new avenues of music. Artists experimented with noise, dissonant chords and atonality drawing inspiration from various non-rock genres. Streamlining these experimentations, albeit with coarse sandpaper, Swans crawled from this swamp.
Filth is the soundtrack of a godless ceremony. Swans begin with the metallic war drums of Stay Here accompanied by syncopated bass and "lead" guitar. Blackout is an obsessive unvaried assaulting beat. These are the songs of a life in its last throes - on the cusp of suicide. Freak is a cacophony of distortion. A song played by a group of individuals rather than a band. Michael Gira, lyricist and band lead, is the vocalist. Though there is little here considered singing. Gira screams. disillusioned and nihilistic he chants, building on the dissonant impetus. This is the voice of flagellated raving. Swans maintain a delicate imbalance of atonal rhythm that blows in their whirlwind of noise. Swans' Filth presents a grating distortion, a depressive black hole sucking listeners in and crushing them.
Swans' Filth is the sound of pain. The pain of disillusionment, of existential agony, of torture. Filth's lack of melody produces a hideous sound and with it a question. Of why? The same question asked when one feels pain, when one ponders their reason for existence. Swans answers this with arrhythmic screams of voices and instruments. They answer with a deflating cry 'It is meaningless.'
Words | Rob Woodgate