M. Gira | Solo Recordings at Home | Review

All Music Guide | Ned Raggett

Gira had discussed the idea of releasing a stripped-down release for some time...

...before the appearance of Solo Recordings at Home, and, as with most things he put his mind to, the end results easily justified the wait. While his later work in Swans and the Angels of Light had incorporated more acoustic efforts, usually as part of song arrangements, Solo Recordings squarely places the emphasis on Gira's voice and guitar only, captured at home via one microphone (an exception being the roughly recorded concert effort "Irish Queen"). Given the sheer emotional resonance of his lyrics -- a number of his efforts here, like the slow, loping "Surrogate" or "On the Mountain," are among his bluntest ever -- the nature of the performances is astonishingly direct as a result. In keeping with his post-Swans work, though, Gira's singing balances command with empathy, cracked and tender at once; anyone not taken with his late-'90s singing won't be convinced here, though fans will find it addictive. His guitar playing similarly can shift on a dime from sudden, brusque runs to gentler, steady fingerpicking, evoking everything from strung out rural blues to Nick Drake's hushed emptiness while still sounding uniquely in his own style. "Kosinsky" in particular has a claim to be one of his prettiest ever efforts, a fascinating contrast to the lyrical meditation on voyeurism. There's one ringer on the disc -- "God's Servant," a fully orchestrated studio recording taken from the sessions for the Angels of Light's New Mother. Also of interest are two reworkings of older Swans songs -- the first, "Love Will Save You," is a gripping take on the White Light From the Mouth of Infinity highlight, its combined message of hope and its absence all the more evocative. Even more striking in context is the wracked take on The Burning World's "I Remember Who You Are," easily trumping the smothered, smoothed-out production of the original.