Angels of Light 'Sing Other People'

Exclaim | by Kevin Hainey


To say Michael Gira is a pretty serious dude is to say that castration would kind of hurt. Shit, the man practically built a career on shoving seriously relevant but hopelessly taboo topics such as repressed guilt, primordial sin, inherent suffering, loss of morality and commonplace self-destruction so far into his listener’s psyches (with notorious dirge-rock legends Swan, whom he fronted with Jarboe) one couldn’t help but feel somewhat stilted, or even violated by his fire-and-brimstone intensity. But ever since Swans were laid to rest back in 1997, Gira has slowly been moving out of the darkness and into the light with his various solo projects. Of these, Angels of Light are the most rustic, acoustic and folk-based, and this, their third album, finds Gira in the lightest of spirits yet, which is to say he still exercises his profound intensity, but balances it with a wise, meditative calmness that suggests he’s found his inner flower and tends it daily. Marked by delightfully spare arrangements that emphasise Gira’s sparkling acoustic guitar work and the percussive talents of his new-found backing group, Akron/Family, this album is a beautifully heartfelt tribute to those Other People Sartre called hell, but whom most of us refer to as friends. Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known 20 years ago? It is certainly a better philosophy to make friends rather than enemies. Much of my career was spent attacking everything around me, lashing out, and I'm glad I now see the benefit of respecting people rather than instantly treating them as a threat or an insect to be crushed beneath the juggernaut of my ego. Ha ha. Some of my contemporaries spent their early careers touring relentlessly, making alliances and building a network of friends and supporters. I, unfortunately, did the opposite. Every show was a confrontation — with the promoter, the sound person, the audience, as well as the band itself. I was very effective at networking negatively. At what point in your life and artistry do you feel to be these days? I'm just as befuddled, confused, and naïve as always. I somehow manage to mentally auto-erase my past work (and everything in my life in general almost daily), so a new album is always a surprise to me, as if it were the first one. To me, each song and record is just another piece of my mind that was sliced off and tossed into the wind.