ANGELS OF LIGHT "The Angels of Light Sing 'Other People' "
AKRON/FAMILY "Akron/Family"

Washington Post | by Mark Jenkins

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If the Michael Gira whose Swans were the most brutal of '80s New York noise bands could somehow meet the one who now records as the Angels of Light, would they even recognize each other? Well, the 2005 Gira still has that same baritone, although these days it's recorded to sound more natural. And today's model continues to sing about pain and death, albeit now in a style that owes more to bluegrass laments and British folk ballads -- as well as Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave -- than to his death-disco past. One of the strongest links is the two bands' sense of rhythm: The Angels don't slam the way Swans did, yet their music is not exactly fluid. "The Angels of Light Sing 'Other People' " opens with the almost-chirpy "Lena's Song," one of several tunes in which Siobhan Duffy's soprano sweetens Gira's gruff delivery. The singer is also accompanied by Akron/Family, a quartet that adds a touch of back-porch psychetronica, most notably on the frankly goofy "My Friend Thor." It's only a matter of time, however, before Gira introduces "Destroyer," whose "mouth is filled with flames," and "My Sister Said," in which what she said is "Now kill that man /Kill that man." The Angels of Light are much gentler and prettier than Swans, but the new Gira's sensibility isn't all that distant from that of his circa 1982 self. Akron/Family's self-titled album, which Gira produced, mixes finger-picking, spacey bleeps and lullaby melodies with harmonies that are all male but not very macho. The vocal quality alone conjures a much easier disposition than the Angels', a vibe that complements the Family's blown-mind lyrics: "I want to see the thing in itself / I don't want to think no more," announces the philosophically unphilosophical "Suchness." Bursts of noise and patches of distortion muss the old-timey sound a bit, but represent mere randomness rather than aggression. The members of Akron/Family may be cohorts of Gira, but they lack his killer instinct. Appearing Tuesday at Iota. · To hear a free Sound Bite from Angels of Light, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8122; to hear Akron/Family, press 8123. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)