Michael Gira is the God of this Fuckin' Land
Warning: The following post contains mass amounts of fellatio directed
towards one Michael Gira.
Michael Gira is one of the most awesome dudes to ever make music. Back in
the 80s and up through the mid-90s he used to stomp faces as part of the
were made. Songs painting dark portraits with religious, sexual, and violent
imagery. Yes, Swans are indeed one of the greatest bands of all-time. If you
disagree, you fail at having good taste and it is highly advised that you
leave this blog, never to return again.
Gira is an ominous figure with a cold, pointed stare that can burn holes
through bone and sinew alike. His voice bellows with baritone authority.
Whether Gira is pummeling the listener with maniacal murderous tirades or
expressing absolute vulnerability, he remains stern. I¹ll be honest, Michael
Gira is pretty fucking scary.
Even when Gira and Swans disbanded in the mid 90s, that didn¹t stop him from
trudging forward with his haunting voice and head full of ideas. He formed
Angels of Light, an act far gentler in tone than the blackened jackhammer
known as Swans. Stripped down from the funeral dirges of Swans, Angels of
Light features a predominately folk-based sound, which allows Gira¹s deep
howl and rich lyrics to take center stage. Angels of Light has had a very
memorable run of albums since forming, with the latest album being another
fantastic winner for Gira (and the inspiration for this post).
We are Him is Gira¹s new offering, recently leaked to the web. The album
shows us just how much Gira and label mates Akron/Family have began to rub
off on each other. Featuring a much ³bigger² sound at times than previous
Angels of Light records, We Are Him has songs that pack a punch similar to
the ones heard on the split with Akron/Family back in 2005. ³Black River
Song² rides a thick, bounding bass line while ³Sometimes I Dream I¹m Hurting
You² comes to a stirring finale complete with a rad keyboard and percussion
Gira¹s lyrics are as wonderful as ever, giving us great lines like ³I am the
God of this fuckin¹ land² and ³Oh Mary Lou, fa-fa-fa fuck you.² Yes, I love
angry and spiteful Gira. The great thing about a song like ³Goodbye Mary
Lou² is that after Gira tears the girl to shreds verbally for 95% of the
song, at the end he announces that he forgives her. That¹s pure Gira
venomous, yet kind.
We Are Him is destined to be one of the best albums of 2007. Go buy it this
August. Gira might swoop down and feast upon your bones if you don¹t.
July 5 / 07
Angels of Light: ³My Brother's Man"
> From We Are Him (Young God; 2007)
How unappealing would it sound for me to postulate that We Are Him is an
unexceptional listen compared to Sing 'Other People' (2005) or Everything Is
Good Here/Please Come Home (2002) or even the last five tracks on
Akron/Family & Angels of Light (2005) but that ³My Brother¹s Man² is easily
the most exceptional track off the new LP, standing out Swan-shaped amongst
a slew of songs defiantly comfortable in shades of Angels of Light pastoral
simplicity? In other words: how unimpressive is it for me to discuss ³My
Brother¹s Man² as a plodding, stomp-out euphemism for We Are Him as a whole
-- a great whole -- when it stands out and stomps out most readily from its
LP ilk by its untempered monotony and thick, sautéed corners, when it is
more the first fifteen years of Gira¹s career than the last five or so?
Right: lazily unappealing; appealingly unimpressive.
In reality it¹s the opening salvo -- erupting more in impact than in the
flight of artillery -- that sets the song immediately apart. Or it¹s Gira¹s
voice, that Spartan husk that¹s unraveled brilliantly over the past few
years, that¹s preaching esoteric symbols over the one-two bass kick, over
the feedback wash like a colonial, mustachioed Nick Cave snarl; this just
can¹t be the Angels of Light, the logic of Gira¹s canon tells me, but it
most definitely bears the carbon footprint of a fifty-two year-old musician
building toward something assured. The answer is no, a Gira comfortable and
confident with his game does not mean the latest incarnation of Angels of
Light emerging nascent over the creases of that dude¹s gnarled mug (that
dude from The Proposition). It means a dead serious warning, like ³I am the
god of this fucking land² spirited on by gutturals that resemble
didgeridoos; it means Akron backing but more, kraut guitars and Xiu Xiu
pulling at bucolic reigns. Signs to be deciphered, really, only to watch
Gira and his legion of musicians wind an avant-noise genius¹s career into
some tree-ringed spool, into some striated bicep, that makes the whole deal
seem as delicate and urgent as ever.
Angels of Light - We Are Him (CD, Young God
The fifth album from Angels of Light...the project created by Michael Gira
after the Swans disbanded in 1997. During his lengthy, influential, elusive
career, Gira has recorded a wealth of material that has somehow mostly
escaped our consciousness up to this point (with the exception of one or two
releases that we heard only briefly). For whatever reason, while others were
having their minds totally blown away by the intensity of Swans music...we
never got our greedy little hands on any of the band's best releases. Thus,
though recorded late in his career, this is the first album by Gira to
receive our full attention. We Are Him is an intriguing, multitextured
collection of tunes that are puzzling and strangely calming. In many ways,
We Are Him reminds us of Brian Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets album. The
vocals are strikingly similar at times...and, like Warm Jets, the
arrangements are obtuse and unfamiliar. Michael invited some underground
heavyweights to help him arrange and record these tunes...contributors
include Akron/Family, Christoph Hahn, Bill Rieflin, Eszter Balint, Julia
Kent, Paul Cantelon, Steve Moses, David Garland, Siobhan Duffy, Larkin
Grimm, Phil Paleo, Birgit Staudt, and Pat Fondiller. Although this album is
difficult to describe and/or explain...there is something obviously rather
substantial going on here that extends beyond the normal boundaries of pop
music. This is easily one of the most intriguing releases of 2007. Puzzling
and peculiar...and yet somehow familiar and reassuring...
Angels of Light: ³We Are Him"
From We Are Him (Young God; 2007)
> Streaming MP3
Michael Gira -- leader of Swans, occasional solo artist, and single
best/scariest voice in rock -- is back with a new album under the Angels of
Light moniker in August. As always, new M. Gira material is reason to get
excited, especially now that he has the daunting task of following up the
excellent Sing Other People and a split LP with Akron/Family that had us all
worked up back in '05. If the title track is any indication, We Are Him
looks to be another jump forward. Working with Akron/Family again, Gira
seems to be moving more toward the full-band rock that much of his
post-Swans material has avoided. Even though the track heads into familiar
territory (especially with the droning intro), the thick rhythm section and
driving pulse that Akron/Family bring with them indicates a very different
Angels of Light.
Even the best songs off Sing Other People occasionally felt somewhat like
lightly-adorned Gira solo tracks; A/F were along for the ride, but they felt
added-on rather than integral to the process. "We Are Him," as well as the
recently posted "Black River Song," demonstrates the power of a more
collaborative relationship. The band chugs along as Gira chants and preaches
his way over the top. They rip through a couple of nasty solos, though, and
the banshee backing vocals fit the track perfectly. Gira doesn't maintain
the grim stoicism or quiet scariness that has informed so much of his solo
material and earlier Angels of Light work, but at this point he's more than
proven his flexibility as an artist. 25 years and good number of genre jumps
after the first Swans EPs and Gira continues to produce innovative, exciting
Posted by Eric Harvey on Thu: 05-10-07
New Music: Angels of Light: "We Are Him" / "Black River Song" [Stream]
Second acts for rock musicians come relatively often, but those that add
something fresh and new to the artist's catalog are rare indeed. Since the
1997 dissolution of goth-metal pioneers Swans, Michael Gira has released a
series of records as Angels of Light, a heading that covers his wide-ranging
collaborative efforts, which lately includes working with drone-folk band
Akron/Family. If these two songs are any indication of the rest of the
forthcoming We Are Him-- which also features contributions from industrial
multi-instrumentalist Bill Rieflin, former Swan Christoph Hahn, and cellist
Julia Kent from Antony and the Johnsons, among others-- it could stand as
strong evidence that Gira's post-Swans material can definitely stand with,
perhaps even surpass, his earlier work.
The two advance singles from We Are Him continue Gira's solo trend toward a
symbolic reversal, perhaps an atonement, for what Gira himself called the
"bludgeoning, single-minded violence" of Swans' music, and a fervent
procession toward redemption. The album's title track opens with an
oscillating, meditative, minute-long drone before launching into the
inclement, muscular blues environs of the song proper. Over Akron/Family's
sour, watertight rollick, Gira intones a series of fire-and-brimstone
three-syllable chants-- "Let him in," "Through your skin," "Set him free,"
"Be his friend"-- like a preacher unwilling to take no for an answer.
Stream: > Angels of Light: "We Are Him"
The band is equally cyclic and strident on "Black River Song", and the
austerity of Gira's vocals, illuminating the dark current running through
"every man, woman and child," echo another two-career artist with one foot
in the avant-garde, John Cale.
Stream:: > Angels of Light: "Black River Song"
[from We Are Him; available August 2007 on Young God Records]
Posted by Eric Harvey on Thu: 05-10-07: 01:14 AM CDT | Permalink
Posted by David Nadelle on 05-21-2007
Hopelessly E-Devotional to Him. Hallelujah! Angels of Light Back with New
I may just have a suspicious nature, or maybe I¹m reading into things way
too much, but it seems that there has been a lot of God talk finding its way
into the Tiny Mix Tapes news section lately (yes, two stories equal "a lot"
in my world). It might have something to do with the season or an
unconscious, heavenly prod to straighten up after celebrating the summer sun
a bit too much too early this year. It might be that writing something
original is harder than plagiarizing Macka¹s biblical-biased blurb from last
week. Still on a TMT tip, it certainly has something to do with my night out
with fellow scribe Munroe (who is a fucking heathen, pure and simple),
because since that fateful night, I have felt, well, different inside. I
cannot shake the feeling that an all-powerful force is at work. I cannot
chalk it up to mere coincidence that when I stumblebummed my way into the
bar washroom for the nth time that night, I was hit with a sudden rush of
strangeness, and I have a vague memory of picking up some sort of ephemeral
off the top of the toilet tank at the same time (no, it was not VD or an
eighth of a line, you skeptics!). When I awoke the next morning (feeling
less than good, and feeling stupid for having dropped my fully loaded fries
and Pogo combo on my shirt), I spied a booklet peeking out of my crumpled
jeans¹ back pocket. The cover asked a simple half-question, Have you heard
ofŠ? and the booklet¹s innards contained the following Four Fantastic Facts:
#1. God loves you and wants to show you His wonderful plan for your life.
#2. Everyone is born with sin in their hearts.
#3. Only Jesus can clean our sinful hearts.
#4. We must each receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Me, I went back to bed. While many will address these quips and their own
spiritual center in their own time by checking out the likes of John 10:10
("The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so they
can have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way."), Romans
3:23 and 5:8 ("Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God¹s glory" and
"But here is how God has shown His love for us. While we were still sinners,
Christ dies for us."), and Ephesians 2:8-9 ("God¹s grace has saved you
because of your faith in Christ. Your salvation doesn¹t come from anything
you do. It is God¹s gift. It is not based on anything you have done. No one
can brag about earning it."), I already chose the right path when I became a
follower of Michael Gira¹s teachings. Whenever I hear Gira, in solo artist
guise, as the main man behind Swans, and more recently behind his Angels Of
Light moniker, I am born again and excited to have received someone into my
heart and life that won¹t steal my girlfriend and PIN number.
You would have to be the Antichrist to think that a new Angels Of Light
album is not at least one and three-quarters of a great idea. Go ahead and
test the notion: ask any street corner lunatic you are on good terms with,
or that girl you met that trains pigeons inside her apartment, whether he or
she isn¹t excited as hell about the prospect of a new glorious Angels Of
Light album and you will invariably get the same answer: "Righteous!" Tons
of news, song snippets, full tracks, and more than appropriate truisms from
other artists regarding Gira and the new Angels Of Light album We Are Him
can be found on the Young God Records site. The album, Gira¹s 73rd, is out
August 20 and is chock full of superb guest players and friends and past
collaborators from Gira¹s days in Swans and recent backing friends
The only thing as exciting as beginning another great Angels Of Light record
adventure would be to see Him live. We sent off an informal e-mail to Gira
to find out if and when we can expect to witness the live faith, and he shot
back right away with, "I will be touring extensively after release of album
August 20 in two-week stints throughout the year following release...Touring
solo exclusively... I enjoy solo much more than with band these days. More
of a challenge, and in some ways more ¹pure¹ and just as intense in its own
way, I think... it¹s a little lonely though ‹ I go out by myself, don¹t
bring a tour manager or extra driver or anything, hence the two weeks at a
"Pure" and "intense" are good words to sum any Angels of Light story. It is
a good thing too, because I¹m running out of steam... I can¹t help it if
piling on praise leaves me emotionally winded. It will do the same to you.
What more can you possibly want anyway? News of an Angels Of Light album, a
quote from the (God)head Himself, and some second-rate witticisms from yours
truly don¹t come cheap ‹ they come free! Can I get an "Amen"!?!?
1 Black River Song
2 Promise of Water
3 The Man We Left Behind
4 My Brother¹s Man
5 This Is Not Here/This Is Not Now
6 Joseph¹s Song
7 We Are Him
8 Sometimes I Dream I¹m Hurting You
9 Sunflower¹s Here To Stay
10 Good Bye Mary Lou
11 The Visitor
12 Star Chaser
Posted by David Nadelle on 05-21-2007