ANGELS OF LIGHT SING OTHER PEOPLE
THE WIRE | ISSUE 256 JUNE 2005 | BY NICK SOUTHGATE
A form of beautiful, rustic pop musicMichael Gira's recent employment as producer and label boss to Akron/Family has been a transforming experience for all parties. The energizing effect the younger group has had on Gira's creative energies and artistic output are copiously in evidence throughout these recordings. Together, they have produced a form of beautiful, rustic pop music. If Brian Wilson had crashed a motorcycle and holed up to recuperate at Big Pink with The Band, this is how the Basement Tapes would have sounded. Two constraints are adopted throughout, with almost total fidelity. Firstly, there are no drums. Secondly, all instruments are acoustic. Deviations add only color, not the volume and rhythm for which they would normally be exploited, with the exception of one coda. Certainly, it's a long way from the brutally physical sonic expression Gira pursued in the past with Swans. Instead, songs are propelled with pronounced riffs and strumming on guitars and extensive background vocals, of the "ba-ba-ba" or "Fa-fa-fa" variety. The effect can be jaunty and poppy, as on opening track "Lena's Song", rolling along over a bright guitar figure and ending in a massed whistling coda. "Destroyer" unfolds like overlapping ripples blown over a lake, the simple forms of guitar arpeggios weaving together through weight of repetition, reflections breaking and forming into an endless pattern. Gira's voice has the depth and richness of maple burls rubbed smooth by generations of passing hands, full of the absent-minded caress of so much transient humanity. The wisdom shared between generations is present in the forgiving candour of "My Sister Said". The album is not without reproach or bitterness, though. "Simon is Stronger Than Us" documents the breakdown of a relationship with wry black comedy, while "Michael's White Hands" builds to a gritted crescendo the vocals turning into a chanted cathartic chorus, purging us of the contamination caused by observing the Disney-fied hyperreality of celebrities who seem to be determined to defy age, race, or the law.