Angels of Light | Review
Dustedmagazine.com | Emerson Dameron
The Angels of Light Sing "Other People"Michael Gira is rockÂ¹s king of catharsis Â this, heÂ¹s established. As the main man behind Swans, he journeyed through industrial crunch and pound into a symphonic, Rhys Chatham etherworld, all the while unafraid to wallow in grandiosity that might send Nick Cave back to Bible camp. Four albums in, Angels of Light appears to be GiraÂ¹s new full-time gig. With it, heÂ¹s supplanted his old aggression with an ear for icy neo-folk beauty and clinical detachment befitting a Burroughs protag. Of course, until lately, his despairing lyrics still dealt with broken lives, decaying flesh as a metaphor for various things, etc.
On Other People, his focus shifts to hope, an altogether more slippery subject than all the worldÂ¹s hungover depression, however wrenching. The new discÂ¹s warmest ballads (Â³My Sister SaidÂ² and Â³On the MountainÂ²) tender broad reassurance; its most eccentric experiments (Â³Simon Is Stronger Than UsÂ² and Â³My Friend ThorÂ²) toast specific pals. MG remains more coroner than crooner (before he thanks Thor for saving his life, he reminds him that his Â³dogs smell like dead thingsÂ²), but hearing him wax tender sans acheÅ itÂ¹s, at the least, unusual.
Of course, Gira has always respected his collaborators. Depending on who else drops by the studio, he varies his approach and reaps different rewards. His partnership with Georgian uber-goth Jarboe drew Swans out of boom-crunch sadism and into the gentler work for which theyÂ¹re best known. Before Vice magazine boarded his jock, beach-lovinÂ¹ California folkie Devendra Banhart worked with the Angels Â their Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home and his Rejoicing In the Hands clearly share oxygen.
Now, Gira works in partnership with Akron/Family, recently signed to his Young God label. A/FÂ¹s self-titled debut will be released in tandem with Other People, which, musically, sounds a lot like Akron/Family featuring M. Gira. More than any of his other work, it recalls What We Did, his joint venture with Windsor for the DerbyÂ¹s D. Matz.
Swans diehards might not dig it. As one, I know we donÂ¹t dig a lot of things. But the same thing happens whenever Gira puts a new team together. Here, heÂ¹s a lot less gruesome, a tad less somber, and a different musician than weÂ¹re used to. Relax. Let the man handle his business. Next time he puts out a true solo record, itÂ¹ll likely be no less harrowing than 1995Â¹s Drainland, his darkest and least accessible hour. For now, itÂ¹s good to hear heÂ¹s found some light without, like his most undeniable forebear L. Cohen, dabbling in lite jazz. That, amigos, would be shadenfreude.
Exactly one track on Other People echoes GiraÂ¹s visceral history with none of the FamilyÂ¹s airy playfulness. ThatÂ¹d be Â³MichaelÂ¹s White Hands,Â² which rumbles toward its bellowed Â³These hands of love / Are hands that chokeÂ² like the most enduringly creepy Swans numbers. Even if Other People ainÂ¹t your mug of Sleepytime, give Gira this: HeÂ¹s still got it, heÂ¹s still exploring, heÂ¹s the most gracefully over-the-top producer in music today. And he can still gross us out.