•••SIGNED BY M.GIRA•••
New Mother was the first post-Swans album of songs from Michael Gira. It was released in 1999. It was written, sung, and produced by M. Gira with contributions from a variety of players ranging across the musical spectrum, including: Bill Rieflin (ex Swans, Ministry)-piano, bass, Farfiza and B3 organ, analog synthesizer, acoustic guitar, etc. and background vocals; Christoph Hahn (ex-Swans)-lap steel, classical and electric guitar, Cassio organ, back. vocals; Larry Mullins (Iggy Pop Band, the Residents)-vibraphone, timpani, tabla, percussion, back. vocals; Thor Harris (Lisa Germano Band)-hand drums, percussion, glockenspiel, back. vocals, water bowls, etc; Phil Puleo (ex-Swans, Congo Norvelle, Cop-Shoot-Cop)-percussion, melodica, organ, mouth harp, etc.; Julia Kent (Rasputina)-cello; Bill Bronson (ex-Swans, Congo Norvelle, the Gunga Din)- bass guitar; Joe McGinty (Psychedelic Furs, The Losers Lounge NYC)- upright piano; Michelle Amar (Sulfur)- background vocals; Hahn Rowe (Feotus, Mimi Goesse Band)- violin; and Birgit Staudt (B Blush)- accordion.
Here’s some reviews from the time:
From All Music Guide 1999/2000
Review by Ned Raggett
Starting with a gentle keyboard in "Fragment," which seamlessly moves into "Praise Your Name," with its piano, accordion, brushed drums, and folk/pop backing singers, Michael Gira makes his continuing, intentional break from Swans. Anything but a softening of his art -- sample lyrics from "Praise" include "Kill idiot violence, punish greed, punish me" -- New Mother instead lets Gira experiment even further, concentrating on acoustic guitar songs accompanied by a variety of musicians. As with just about anything he tries, the results are highly individual and astonishingly good. Equally noticeable throughout the full 75-minute disc are Gira's vocals -- he's actually singing, as opposed to the brooding speak/sing of the later Swans years. While he's no Scott Walker (e.g., with occasional straining on the high notes), he's quite good nonetheless, further distinguishing his Angels work as being a mere continuation of his previous band. The general feel of the entire record draws on a juxtaposition of lush '60s American and European pop orchestration (the use of a banjo inevitably recalls Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks) with often stark, ominous recordings and arrangements (and sometimes, as on "Angels of Light," a hint of the relentless build of many of Swans' final epic pieces), creating a marvelous artistic tension that avoids mere pastiche. Those songs with more stripped-down arrangements, such as the romantically obsessed "This Is Mine," with merely guitar, piano, and what sounds like hammer dulcimer, succeed as well as the fuller numbers, providing a fine variety to the disc. No less than 19 musicians participated in the creation of New Mother, and the fact that Gira was able to synthesize their efforts and create such a powerful debut bodes well for his future efforts in this vein.
6/12/1999 | Mitchell Foy | Creative Loafing
Fallen angel Swans leader Michael Gira returns with a new project
"I'm happy to put Swans behind me."
It's practically the first sentence out of the mouth of the iconoclastic Michael Gira as he shakes off the weariness of his recent trip overseas. Happy? It's hard to believe. The image of the angry young man of the early/mid-'s80 ripping himself apart at the seams as the rest of the Swans slave away at their instruments is so deeply ingrained it's hard to imagine Mr. Gira being jubilant about anything. Yet with the release of New Mother, by his latest project Angels of Light (on his own Young God Records no less), it's easy to see that the albatross of his former band has been fully loosed from his neck. Quite successfully, one might add. Sure, since Swans' demise in 1997 Gira has released a couple of formidable discs under his Body Lovers/Body Haters umbrella. But those were obviously projects; sounds and textures endlessly looped and manipulated via the trusty computer. Angels of Light, though, marks the re-emergence the legions have been waiting for. It is, for lack of a better term, a band, albeit one of a dramatically different nature. Gira, guitar in hand, is - up front where he belongs, a la "Failure" from Swans' “White Light From the Mouth of Infinity.”
Accompanying him is a trove of musicians -including Rasputina's Julia Kent, longtime Swans producer Martin Bisi and Atlanta's own Chris Griffin - playing an endless list of uncommon instruments: Mandolin, flugelhorn, numerous organs, glockenspiel, hammer dulcimer, Irish harp and countless others help create New Mother's exotic, pastoral sound. It's sure to please later-period Swans fans - particularly those fond of the White Light and The Burning World discs. "It's very unusual instrumentation. Very organic," says Gira. "I think it's equally intense, but in a different way than Swans."
The artistic path has always been a murky hike for Gira. In Swan's early years in the 80's - during which time Georgia native Jarboe became an increasingly prominent member (leading Swans to base themselves in Atlanta for part of the '90s) - the band seemed to be as much at war with itself as it was with the rest of the world. The band's transformation around the turn of the decade was no easier. "When I started to change the sound of Swans," Gira says, "I was learning to write songs and make music in a different way, and it was a hard thing to \ do. I think I succeeded in a lot of instances but in a lot I didn't." Success or failure, it's obvious New ': Mother couldn't have happened without those various turning points. In fact, the record almost didn't happen. "We ran out money," says. Gira. "I went into the studio and recorded most of the songs on my acoustic guitar with my vocal. Then I started to think about how I could orchestrate them - I started calling musicians I like and had them play on it. I'd get to a certain stage and run out of money and beg, borrow or steal for it. In fact, a lot of the money came from fans on the website."
What you get for his troubles is over 70 minutes of floral dementia on a grand scale. It's much more subtly unsettling than Swans, due in part to its complete lack of - among other things - his former group's heavy percussion. The rich, upfront vocals put it in the singer/song-writer category, while the music, by turns serene and bizarre, push the proceedings into worlds beyond.
"Writing songs these days, I sit down with my acoustic guitar when I wake up and am kind of connected to my Subconscious from just waking up from dreams. I just have a memory or an image or a notion and just start chip-ping away at it. It takes a really long time; words never come easy for me. Nothing ever just flows."
Judging by some of the lyrics on New Mother, these dreams are the type that make most people toss, turn and sweat at night. "A lot of the songs are hagiographies," he explains. '"The Man with the Silver Tongue' is about Viennese performance artist Rudolph Schwartzkoggler and Herman Nitsch, his buddy, who crucified animals and released their intestines on young boys. It's just this beautiful-pagan/catholic imagery. 'The Garden Hides the Jewel' is about Marcel Duchamp - this construction he built for the last 20 years of his life. Then there're some songs where I glorify some women I've known, especially the most violent, and vengeful ones.
"And then there's the unfortunate drunken confessions as well," he laughs.
"I tried to deal with what I guess you could call the inherent evil I've discovered in myself; excise that, use it as material."
When pushed to further illuminate the nature of this "evil." he remains elusive, offering, "It's just a kind of horrible behavior one might be capable of." Given the nature of his work and the general air of mystery surrounding its creator, I have to ask him about a recent interview in which he proclaimed he had no soul.
"Did I really say that?" he replies with a laugh. "God, these interviews I've been doing are way too personal I'm actually not a completely morose or introverted person. I try to enjoy life a bit."
1/1/2000 | Mark Weddle
Overall impression: excellent!
The Angels of Light is the new band led by Michael Gira, formerly of SWANS.
Gira's first post-SWANS projects were the primarily instrumental The Body Lovers and The Body Haters (see also "Number One of Three", "34:13"). With The Angels of Light, Gira returns to vocal based songs. And it's so good to hear Gira's voice and words again! Lyrically "New Mother" is probably his most personal work to date. Many of these songs reflect Gira's relationships with himself, his parents and Jarboe (also of SWANS): his faults (alcohol comes up more than once), regrets, love, sorrow, repentance. It's a confessional of sorts, very honest and genuine. Gira has many voices here: spoken, melodic, hums, quiet whispers, fragile whimpers and the occasional grating caterwaul. These songs focus on Gira's vocals and guitar, similar to the quieter side of recent SWANS and Gira's '94 solo album "Drainland". A few are solely Gira ("How We End", "Fear of Death") while the rest are more fleshed out. All are relatively quiet ... you won't find crescendoing walls of electric guitar or drones here, they've been replaced with beautiful layers of melodic acoustic/organic instrumentation. The numerous musicians contributing to this album (many of whom are veterans of past Gira/SWANS live and studio projects) weave an elegant tapestry of sound as backdrop, where necessary, to Gira's words. Look at the credits above and you'll understand the abundance of exquisite sounds to be found within these songs. The only person missing is Jarboe, but she is most definitely not forgotten ... this album is dedicated to and in many respects is about her. "New Mother" could also be considered an accompanying counterpart to Jarboe's '98 solo album "Anhedoniac". This is a bold step forward for Gira ... from the ashes of SWANS has risen an abundance of new expression through art and music. The packaging is first rate as is usually the case with Gira's projects. The digipack comes with a five panel insert that features all of the lyrics, credits and original photography by Wim van de Hulst (who also did "Drainland") one of which is a wonderful new portrait of Gira. If you're a fan of any of Gira's past melodic work you will love this disc. For anyone unfamiliar with Gira, The Angels of Light is a great starting point to his superb songwriting skills. I'm positive that "New Mother" will be near the top of my favorites list for 1999 …