The Angels Of Light
Although he's had his hand in his fair share of great music over the years, Michael Gira has also been a part of some pretty inconsistent releases as well. As a member of the Swans, his output either won listeners over immediately with its visceral base, or it sent them fleeing in terror. After that group went their separate ways, he formed a band called The Angels Of Light, and although the group took a much different route stylistically than The Swans, those records had their definite ups and downs as well.
Interestingly enough, Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home (which was funded entirely by sales of a previous live CD by the group), seems to be the breakthrough album for the group. It's 11 tracks and just under an hour of music, and while it jumps from genre to genre musically, the music created creates a near-perfect backdrop to the songs, which mainly cover disasters of some sort in life (whether they be personal, political, or otherwise). At times touchingly beautiful, and at others rambling with almost a careening, out-of-control feel, the disc definitely feels like the most personal effort by Gira, even though other releases have certainly been a hell of a lot less subtle in their outpourings.
According to notes on the album, each track started with the simple basics of an acoustic guitar and voice, then built things up from that ground level. "Palisades" opens the release with some brittle strumming, then works into a nice melody with vocals by Gira over the top while layers of chimes echo in the background. As his vocals get more and more dramatic, the track swells up into a lovely, layered orchestral rock number with about 4 intertwining layers of acoustic and electric guitar, as well as drums and everything else. It drops off again for the second verse, but builds nicely and by the end of the track is a lovely bombast. "All Soul's Rising" jangles along with a slimy guitar riff and pummelling drums, while Gira belts out primal vocals that fit the proceedings perfectly, sounding like a march to war offset with lyrics about atrocities.
Just when you think it's all going to be pomp and big crescendos, the album drops off a bit into the dense, but very pretty "Kosinski" (which includes some almost Appalachian-sounding violin). It's probably one of the 'poppiest' tracks that Gira has ever lent his talents too, but like much of the rest of the album, it's a step in showing different sides of the musician, and most of them work quite well. "Nations" opens with nothing but a filtered xylophone melody, but is absolutely thundering near the end of its almost 7 minute conclusion, as Gira turns the track into a fervent ode to all those who have made sacrifices without being overtly patriotic.
Like the aforementioned, the most involving tracks on the disc are the ones that start in utter simplicity and pile on layers and sounds until the track is a swarming mass of sound. It's probably no coincidence that the picture on the back cover of the album has a huge stack of CDs, at the top of which lies a copy of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Yanqui U.X.O. Although Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home doesn't really resemble GYBE in musical output, it's a release that harnesses the energy of somewhat teasing the listener, pulling them in and letting loose with a huge wall of sound. With almost 20 people involved in the creation of the album (instruments, voices, etc) and the way in which it was funded, it truly sounds like it was a labor of love. As a person who hasn't really gotten into much of the work that Gira has been involved with up to this point, I can honestly say that this newest release is something completely different and interesting.