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Returning to Filth, the debut album from American group Swans, is like crash-landing in an alternate reality. Today the band are critically acclaimed for brooding, lengthy experimental rock, whilst 31 years ago they were releasing gaunt, psychotic post-punk. Back in 1983 Swans were not the majestic creatures that name conjured - they were an incredibly physical, noisy band that clattered and clanged and left your ears ringing for days afterwards.

'Stay Here', Filth's opening track almost stumbles at the first hurdle, rattling bass and off kilter drums underscoring Michael Gira's terrifying wail. Whatever the message is he's eager to get it across spitting the words right into your ears. "Flex your muscles / be hard / come back for more." It's as though he's goading the audience on, the backing meanwhile, which drives on growling and flexing its own muscles, making it clear this is a fight you don't even want to think about.

Part of that aggressive, physical sound comes from the fact that Swans employed two drummers, Jonathan Kane and Roli Mosimann whose combined efforts put the force into Filth. The brutal, tribal drumming of 'Power for Power' is extraordinary, even after all these years. It's essentially a simple, cyclical beat, but in Kane and Mosimann's hands the two kits call and respond, pound and crash, deep in the mix, forever present. The duo occasionally stray from pattern, adding in flourishes of cymbal and cross-stick or staggering, off-beat fills that lend an improvisational quality as though you've stumbled into a jam session in New York's dirtiest, deadliest dive bar.

'Thank You' on the other hand features a more driving beat that's less experimental but just as satisfying to hear. It all helps to pull together the remaining instruments, the chugging bass, the scratchy, repetitive guitars and ultimately proves a suitable match for Gira's animalistic vocals.

Whilst sonically the album is worlds away from their more recent output, there are clear cues that this is (despite the line-up changes) the same band. Even at this early stage Swans' use of repetition to create intense, claustrophobic sound is present, if anything it's in much starker focus as it's the main element of all 9 tracks. 'Blackout' is built around a de-tuned, feedback laced chord progression that seems to eschew any sense of rhythm, whilst 'Weakling' focuses on a menacing, steady bass and screeching guitars.

Filth might not be as musically complex as Swans later work, but its experiments with structure and sound - there are plenty of weird tape effects employed here - show how the band were already well on their way to becoming an essential, innovative act. Also, in comparison to their more recent work, The Seer and To Be Kind, there's a lot of chaotic fun to be had in these short, sharp bursts of noise. It's arguable that somewhere along the way Swans lost something as their sound became grander and more richly detailed. Sure, we gained a lot thanks to that progression, but that raw energy, the uncontrollable might of this first record hasn't always carried through. There are glimmers of it, like in the opening of the 30 minute epic 'Bring the Sun / Toussaint L'Ouverture' but nothing to rival the ballsy, manic death rattle of 'Freak' or the awesome pound of 'Power for Power'.

In announcing this reissue Michael Gira noted that Filth was, in a sense, a reaction against punk and "the conservative notion that three chords were necessary." It certainly puts its contemporaries to shame for sheer anarchy, yet there is a sense of control bubbling away underneath. To more recent listeners the lack of polish and finesse found on Swans records since reforming may be a little jarring at first, but given time Filth will reveal itself to you and prove to be the gateway to the rest of their catalogue.

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