US - New York - Full Moon 105 - 04/24/05
The Angels of Light
Sing "Other People"
See the Lunakafe review of Michael Gira's solo album from last year. Many of the songs on this new Angels of Light album are reworked versions of songs that first appeared there. Being a huge Angels of Light fan, I decided to give this one a proper first listen: I put it on as I fell asleep. Many of songs are light, but I don't mean that in the sense of "light-rock", I mean it more in its literal sense, ie, not heavy - which is a bit of a change for this industrial music progenitor.
As Mr. Gira describes it:
This album is different in many ways than what I've done in the past. There's no general band "sound" here. The instrumentation is arranged in each song to fit the subject. Each song is its own world, a place for the people in the songs to live. I intentionally eschewed long instrumental passages, crescendos, that sort of thing - I've done enough of that, and I'm tired of it. The songs say what they have to say, then end. Many are entirely acoustic. When electric instruments are used, they're used sparsely. I set a limitation before recording: there would be no drums (one song contains about 10 seconds of drums, but otherwise, nothing) - double bass or bass guitar is used instead as the rhythmic base. This had the effect of opening up a lot of space, as well necessarily forcing the songs into focus. This is as close as I'll ever get to making "pop" songs, though I of course realize my definition is probably a little different than yours!" (from younggodrecords.com)
"Lena's Song" uses high and tinkly electric guitar and "bahp bahp bahp" skats sung by Gira and his backups, band Akron/Family. Listen for the awesomely long-held retardation on the word "gave" at the 2:30 mark. It's my favorite moment in this tune. "The kid's already breaking, and he's just a little boy", Gira sings in "The Kid is Already Breaking". Akron/Family sing more pop scat on this one, with "ooooh la la la" backing his lyric "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry". Odd percussion instruments greet us in "My Friend Thor". Unfortunately, besides the incredible "Dum dum dum dah dum"s that climax it, this song isn't quite up to par.
"On the Mountain" is a song whose sister lives on Gira's solo album under the title "Let It Be You", and it's such an incredible tune! God, how beautful it is what he says here. Gira is nothing but a prophet on the mountain, a real and true hero. It's daunting, his advice. And what a one-two punch we have. "Destroyer" follows "On the Mountain". "Here she comes, dressed in white. Her mouth is filled with flames. Her skin is black, her fingers trace the diamonds in her veins. Here she comes, down from the sun, to wash this country clean. Comes down for us, down from the dust, to murder what remains. Here she comes, now dressed in red, to heal this ruined race. I know somewhere, where there's a God, he's lying at her feet". These two songs are enough to make me cry.
"Dawn" is a short minor-key song that harks back a bit to a more dark Angels of Light sound. "My Sister Said" is yet another beauty. These songs are so damned good; I'm telling you Michael Gira is easily one of the single best song writers you'll ever hear making records. "You might be young now, and you might be alone. You might have one thing that you do well. And people will tell you, the world it looks this way, but they're all the same, they're just useless waste anyway. So hunt him down, hunt him down. Hold him close, and love that man. Love that man, love that man, hold him close, and say my name. Now kill that man. Kill that man. My sister said it's endless." "Michael's White Hands" is another dark tune that really keeps this album overall out of "pop" or "docile" territory. As a song, White Hands adds substance to the album, for sure, but it doesn't do that and stand alone like the best tunes on this album. Gira does let go of his voice more on this song that any of the rest, almost screaming like his Swans days, which is good to hear.
"To Live Through Someone" continues. This is a molasses-slow song, and its tough to get through at this late point on the album. Another album that works absolutely best on vinyl 'cause you need that intermission. It's not a boring or bad song by any means, but if you haven't breaked you might want to before track 9. "Simon Is Stronger than Us" is way dirtier and rough around the edges than anything else on this album. It's quite unique. The penultimate track is "Purple Creek", another devastatingly great song that was on the solo album. It's about mosquitos, living in Purple Creek, that will save us. The imagery is amazing in these lyrics. "Jackie's Spine" finishes the album perfectly with another molasses-slow song. Was hoping there might be more pop-skatting on the back-side of the album, but that was front-loaded for some odd reason. "Jackie's Spine" are the last two words you hear on the album.
Sing "Other People" is chocked full of characters and stories and wisdom. It's overall emotion isn't sad, depressed, or dark at all, as some might have come to expect from Mr. Gira, but quite resolute and knowing. You might need a few breaks but this record is a sublime, powerful work of art. Go ye young gods!
Copyright © 2005 Bill Banks