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The Angels of Light - The Angels of Light Sing "Other People"

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Artist: The Angels of Light

Album: The Angels of Light Sing "Other People"

Label: Young God

Review date: Mar. 8, 2005

Michael Gira is rock’s king of catharsis – this, he’s 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 Gira’s new full-time gig. With it, he’s 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 world’s hungover depression, however wrenching. The new disc’s warmest ballads (“My Sister Said” and “On the Mountain”) tender broad reassurance; its most eccentric experiments (“Simon Is Stronger Than Us” and “My Friend Thor”) toast specific pals. MG remains more coroner than crooner (before he thanks Thor for saving his life, he reminds him that his “dogs smell like dead things”), but hearing him wax tender sans ache… it’s, 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 they’re best known. Before Vice magazine boarded his jock, beach-lovin’ California folkie Devendra Banhart worked with the Angels – 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/F’s 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 Derby’s D. Matz.

Swans diehards might not dig it. As one, I know we don’t dig a lot of things. But the same thing happens whenever Gira puts a new team together. Here, he’s a lot less gruesome, a tad less somber, and a different musician than we’re used to. Relax. Let the man handle his business. Next time he puts out a true solo record, it’ll likely be no less harrowing than 1995’s Drainland, his darkest and least accessible hour. For now, it’s good to hear he’s 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 Gira’s visceral history with none of the Family’s airy playfulness. That’d be “Michael’s White Hands,” which rumbles toward its bellowed “These hands of love / Are hands that choke” like the most enduringly creepy Swans numbers. Even if Other People ain’t your mug of Sleepytime, give Gira this: He’s still got it, he’s still exploring, he’s the most gracefully over-the-top producer in music today. And he can still gross us out.

By Emerson Dameron

Other Reviews of The Angels of Light

We Were Alive

Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home

We are Him

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