Review Summary: A merry old trawl through angst and frustration(albeit tinged with some optimism) wrapped up in a hugely satisfying, highly textural and expressive package.
Third Track. Silence, then gently strummed acoustic and electric guitar form a simple, lifting melody. A warm nostalgia is inferred upon the listener as the vocal fade in. An acrid smoke filters into the brain chamber when one comprehends the nature of the lyrics which seem to allude to obsessive love and voyeurism. Then a bone saw is taken to the blackboard as some Velvet Undergroundesque violins lurch out of the ether and join the march to the end of the song. A thing of contradiction then, as the gorgeously blissful instrumentation and vocal delivery clash swords with a lyrical content many people would find unsettling and therein lies the magic; the play-off between the sentimental and sadistic, the jocular and the deathly serious. The tension it creates.
Of all his post-Swans projects, Michael Gira’s Angels Of Light is probably his most tuneful and accessible. It’s also one of his most intimate due to the comparatively stripped-back nature of the instrumentation. However their third release, Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home, betrays this impression by being musically one of their most layered and complex efforts to date. It is a strong testament to Gira’s skill as both songwriter and producer that not only do the atmospheres and moods created here have one calling out names like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros in the same breath as Drake, Cohen et al, he can pull these seemingly disparate influences together into a totally natural, organic and unique whole.
This textually rich and expressive landscape means that all the songs featured here are very memorable; the CD can be enjoyed again and again as each piece hosts a multitude of subtleties. In the second track ‘All Souls Rising’, Michael Gira plays firebrand minister to a ravenous flock in the desert where country stomp meets Swans-like dirge. Gira’s strangely phrased vocals call for the ‘cull of foreign bone’ while instruments crash in everywhere, creating seething blocks of dissonance that exhilarate as much as they disturb. By contrast the apparent optimism of tracks like ‘Sunset Park’, with its bittersweet pop melody and mantra- like lyrics, remind us Gira is not always the grim-faced doomsayer that some would paint him.
In spite of this, a lingering melancholy hangs over this disc; the lyrics seem to largely concern themselves with unresolved feelings and frustrations. In particular ‘Palisades’ feels like a requiem for lost love much like ‘Evangeline’ was on their comparatively restrained second CD, How I Loved You. The track’s delicate, aching instrumentation with touches of ghostly keys articulates perfectly what it sets out to. When he’s not purging personal demons, he’s tackling politics in tracks like “Nations’. His lyrics have a certain poetic ambiguity about them, however, that their interpretation can be unique as the person listening to them. Gira’s voice is a rich and powerful gravely croon that has only improved since his days with Swans and he sings his lyrics with conviction.
The obvious complaint though about the densely layered approach on this CD is that sometimes too much can just be too much and Gira’s voice can simply be overpowered by the sheer amount of things going on.
Nevertheless this can be easily be ignored in the light of the quality and vision of the songs on this fine album.