The Wire | Issue 245, July 2004

A gripping series of songs and wordless song sketches

The title of this album- which is only available from Gira’s Website- is descriptive rather than poetic. It was mostly recorded in Gira’s office onto DAT. It’s almost impossible to listen to this intimate solo acoustic set without picturing Gira in the mind’s eye. It sounds like he looks, from the intimidating death’s head expression, through to his tastefully austere tailoring and that smoke wreathed voice dried out by endless cigars.

Gira’s lyrics include allusions to pestilence, death, sailor songs, an avenging angel in “Destroyer” and the haunting, unfathomable characters of “Michael’s White Hands”. It’s tempting to surmise that he is tapping into folk archetypes. One pictures the sharp suit and haunted face of early 20th century Country blues singer Dock Boggs, to whom Gira bears a passing physical resemblance, and his songs of betrayal and murder. But Gira is undoubtedly of his age, sophisticated and urbane.

I Am Singing To You is a gripping series of songs and wordless song sketches. However, rather than giving any insight into Gira’s work, it demonstrates what has untied all of it since early Swans recordings like “Raping A Slave”. Namely, his gravitas. The characteristic relentlessness if his delivery makes a song like “Blind” immensely moving, while the acoustic setting of “All Lined Up” – previously recorded by Swans and Gira solo – sounds as powerful in its own way as any full blown group rendering of his songs. As if anticipating this reaction in the listener, Gira then a section of a more monolithic live take on “All Lined Up” by his group Angels Of Light.

From here on in, the tone changes markedly. If much of what preceded it was Gira Boiled down to his essence, in a disarming move , the final clutch of songs were written for Rosalie and Juliette, the “delightful daughters” of two friends. Of these, “Crooked Man” is nursery rythme –like and fairytale creepy, while “Maen Monster Mike” has you picturing Gira with plastic fangs, capering around the screaming girls. It’s difficult not to listen to this without cracking a smile – not a reaction usually associated with Gira’s work.