The Angels of Light | Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home

Splendid | by Ron Davies

A treasure that grows more precious with each listen

This is a beautiful album. On the surface, it can be surprisingly simple -- strummed acoustic guitar, unadorned piano and straightforward vocals form the bulk of the music. But in the hands of Michael Gira, few things are as simple as they initially appear. Best known for his work with the now-defunct Swans, Gira spins his musical webs with all the literary craftsmanship of a skilled author. Seemingly straightforward songs stand knee deep in crosscurrents that will sweep you away if given half a chance.

Take, for example, the opening track, "Palisades". A beeping tone is a cry for help within a framework of delicate piano and soft, tinkling wind chimes. Gira's rich baritone the caresses the melody until a thick bass drum and strumming guitars begin to sound. The buildup gives way to silence, after which Gira is joined by a chanting chorus. It all sounds simple because at its heart, it's just a vocal and piano accompaniment -- but by adding the additional elements in such a deft manner, Gira raises the song's impact, creating something unmistakably grand.

This trick is repeated throughout the disc. "All Soul's Rising" combines a dissonant guitar, throbbing bass and conflicting shouts to invoke a primitive ritual conducted around the fire. By the time a squealing sax punctures the throbbing rhythm, the music's sheer unbridled energy will have you quivering. "Rose of Los Angeles" mines similar territory, but uses a manic calliope instead of the guitars. "Kosinski", on the other hand, is a soft, sweet affair in which a fiddle sinks into a down-filled comforter of finger-plucked guitars.

While there are moments on Everything Is Good Here that clearly recall the Swans, the Angels of Light seem more intent on exploring country textures than Gira's earlier band ever was. Because of this focus, it wouldn't be rash or out of place to describe this as a country or folk album. True, the textures can be harsher than what one normally encounters in those genres, but the music's intent and dark sincerity is the same. Similarly, the music's surface accessibility belies a more turbulent heart. This contradiction makes Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home a treasure that grows more precious with each listen.