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The Angels of Light - We are Him

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Artist: The Angels of Light

Album: We are Him

Label: Young God

Review date: Sep. 12, 2007

First, a brief bit of background that most Dusted readers don’t need (‘cause he’s a fucking legend, y’all): Michael Gira led the New York City art-noise outfit Swans through sadistic proto-industrial crunch to sweeping, symphonic meditations (and a few significant lineup changes) before hanging up that flag in 1997. Since then, he’s been arguably most influential as a producer businessman, putting out records on his Young God label that mine the same rich, dark earth as his later, prettier Swans stuff – and launching a minor star in Devendra Banhart – though he still reemerges with Angels of Light (Gira, and, theoretically, the Los Angeles Clippers, or whomever else is in the room) to maintain the gold standard. Since 2004, he’s worked in close tandem with the Brooklyn spaz-folk band Akron/Family, which effectively became Angels of Light for purposes of the 2005 LP Angels of Light Sing Other People. And here we are, with We are Him hitting the racks as the freak-folk flame has pretty much died and the expectations are ambiguous.

Akron/Family once again puts down the basic tracks, which lends We are Him the same gentle, melodic character as its predecessor. But while Other People sometimes lost its way in the sunshine, We are Him is more varied in texture, more resolute in execution and, to the probable amusement of Gira’s long-term coterie, an altogether darker disc. The core group hosts a wide range of guests, from ex-Swans Bill Rieflin and Christoph Hahn to Gira’s current wife Siobhan Duffy (best remembered from the prankish noise unit God Is My Co-Pilot). As always, Gira makes the decisions, but he gives himself more room this time, and runs a deeper, more provocative show.

From the outset, “Black River Song” and “Promise of Water” juxtapose images of springs and growing things with forebodings of paralysis and emptiness, over slowly escalating thumps, sways and drones. More than anything else Gira has done in years, “My Brother’s Man” recalls the blistering, bluesy one-two crunch of his earliest work, but also uses his ever-developing command of imagery (usually involving human viscera) and metaphor (often involving religion and usually involving viscera). By the climactic centerpiece “Sometimes I Dream I’m Hurting You,” gentle disgust develops into a gospel-stomp and plea for absolution that sounds more like a demand. Gira makes no apologies and takes no responsibility for helping to nurture the last wave of new folk – and this stuff doesn't break that cast entirely – but it’s also the deep filth that Gira fanatics crave, more so than anything else in the post-’97 Young God catalog, if in a much more “adult” mode (Gira was already in his late 20s when Swans started, and he’s a lot older than Fiest now, so live with it).

By contrast, the pop material, clustered near the end of the album (the Beatlesque “Sunflower’s Here to Stay,” the backporch dis track “Good Bye Mary Lou” and the lethargic ballad “Star Chaser”) sounds ridiculous, but provides a certain awkward relief.

Whatever Gira does, he does for dozens of reasons. But it’s nice to hear him playing to his own most obvious strengths again.

By Emerson Dameron

Other Reviews of The Angels of Light

We Were Alive

Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home

The Angels of Light Sing "Other People"

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