ANGELS OF LIGHT | Everything Is Good Here | Review

Creative Loafing | J. EDWARD KEYES

riveting from start to finish

For the better part of the '80s and '90s, Michael Gira was one of two principle personas (Jarboe was the other) behind the Swans, the New York/Atlanta noise ensemble that spent its lifespan mining the awful depths of human cruelty.

He hasn't strayed too far from that path with Angels of Light. The group's fifth record is a brutal, unyielding exercise in terror and dread. Angels of Light actually do what all of those ridiculous post-grunge bands talk about doing -- namely, they punish you with sound. "All Souls' Rising" is constructed around a single merciless chord pattern that snarls and stomps for a full six minutes as Gira howls and grunts and stalks the edges of the song like a serial killer. It's like The Birthday Party, but darker. Even the ostensibly relaxed "Kosinski" builds to a fever pitch.

The thing that makes the Angels' songs so dense is the fact that they are all verse. Gira is an expert in stretching a single musical idea to its breaking point, grinding out the same series of notes until he's walloped every last possibility out of them. Instead of ushering in a chorus, Gira simply adds more instruments, throwing in whistles and banjos and an accordion -- all of them running the same circular track. Imagine the needle getting stuck on an old vinyl LP -- but instead of getting up and freeing it, you let it play for several minutes. You begin to notice nuances in the sound -- the rhythm shifts, different instruments emerge, and the melody becomes disconcertingly amorphous.

Gira accomplishes all of this; Everything is Good Here is riveting from start to finish. But if you think you're getting off easy, forget it.