Everything Is Good Here

dusted magazine | Andy Urban

Can I Be Part of Your Complicated Aesthetic?

Album: Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home

'Orchestrated' is a word Michael Gira uses often to describe the music he has made with the Angels of Light. Orchestrated encompasses both the complexity and the bareness of the music if the term most simply means intent to control how each song ebbs and flows on a course to a predetermined end result. Orchestrated can similarly mean highly detailed madness.

Four years after their formation, Gira and his Angels of Light cohorts have produced their third studio album, Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home. Funded by proceeds of We Were Alive, a live album released specifically for that purpose, Everything is Good embraces a duality of spirit that makes it both an intimate listening experience and an external assault. These two approaches coexist well on Everything is Good, wavering between the tempestuous, tribal feel of ³All Souls¹ Rising² to the gentle, flute-enhanced melody that marks ³The Family God.² Everything is Good reestablishes (or sustains, given the prolific history of Swans, the Body Lovers, etc.) Gira¹s genius to thrust us in and out of chaos while maintaining a complicated aesthetic and nuanced approach.

A lot has been said of Swans¹ and Gira¹s post-Swans¹ projects predilection towards violent sexual imagery and Bosch-esque forays into the filthy corners of our collective subconscious. Often, scribes have unified all of Gira¹s music within this vein, to the point where one song seems to effortlessly beget the next. This assessment, in my opinion, applies only as a generalized thematic analysis. Much in the same way one could state that Philip Roth likes to write about Diaspora Jews, you could likewise simplify Gira¹s music as being ³dark.² Nevertheless, both descriptions fail to take into account the intricacies that come with creating any volume of work and each individual piece¹s resistance to being classified as merely a part of an all-consuming theme.

To return to the songs mentioned in the first paragraph. The second track on the album, ³All Souls¹ Rising² is one of four songs that were released early last summer on We Were Alive, following the conclusion of the Angels of Light¹s 2001 tour. It begins with a quiet wailing in the background and quickly introduces an aggressive guitar accompanied by Gira angrily intoning ³The cull of foreign bone ­ Marrow sucked beneath the flower tree. / Leave the righteous ones to rise again, and drink the light from enemies.² The song¹s tempo and surreal lyrics, coupled with the busyness of instruments and the dissonance they create, keeps the listener on the outside of what is taking place artistically. Here ³orchestrated,² in my opinion, could be substituted with ³cinematic² ­ Gira creates visuals with sound that is extrinsic. (Not surprisingly, the Young God Records website offers Gira¹s production skills for use in creating soundtracks ­ if it was not for the caveat ³serious, professional, filmmakers with budget only please,² I was considering contacting him to develop a score interpreting the ongoing saga of my leaky bathroom ­ I would like to see his approach to the mundane.)

³The Family God² embodies the shared emotionalism that can couple the listener and musician as one, destroying the barrier between artist and audience. The song finds Gira comparably sedate, sounding not unlike Lambchop¹s Kurt Wagner. With moments of veritable silence and a fluttering flute accompanying the song¹s crescendos, ³The Family God² is a highly evolved work of art involving a number of different instruments and what must have been hours in the studio. The chanted refrain ³give me some more² furtively builds to climax ­ literally as Gira wails out a long, shrill ³release.²

The album as a whole provides remarkable diversity even if the inside/outside dichotomy influences the listener¹s perspective on each track. On ³Kosinsky,² Gira left me as paralyzed and awe-inspired with the line ³When the light shows through your window, I can see you there in the mirror, touching blond hair that¹s a river, of translucent, liquid light.² The track as a whole possesses a beautiful, almost soporific melody that reminded me of ³Untitled Love Song² from How I Loved You. ³Rose of Los Angeles² is a recorded carnival ­ cryptically addressing the topic of infanticide. ³What You Were² is a marvel in lucid clarity, both through the music and the lyrics.

Reviewing this album felt somewhat futile and words inadequate tools for describing music that is so fastidiously created. Gira writes an occasional letter to his legions that is posted on the Young God website, and I leave you with his own description of what went into Everything is Good:

³I guess it was like riding a mangy nocturnal hound through back alleys glittering with broken glass, used syringes, and discarded prophylactics, only to emerge in a quaint green meadow speckled with yellow pollen and daisies and prancing butterflies, somewhere in the English Countryside, thinking, ŒWhat am I doing here???¹ then brutally murdering the hound and getting the hell OUTA there - something like that.²

Something like that indeed.