Overall impression: excellent!

Mark Weddle

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 …