ANGELS OF LIGHT - Angels of Light Sing Other People
AKRON / FAMILY - Akron / Family
[Young God Records,]

These two projects showcase the gentler, but at the same time, an equally dark vision of the world of Michael Gira. Though he is personally only involved in Angels of Light, Akron/Family is a group he takes individual responsibility for, having signed them to his label, Young God Records. Following the disbandment of Swans in the late 90's, Michael Gira decided to hone in on his song-writing skills even more so than before. The sound became less harsh, overtly acoustic and ultimately one filled with beauty. This is beauty in its real form: unashamed, direct and certainly without a hint of sarcasm. The subject matter varies, between the pain of life, the always misunderstood subject of love, depression and of course Michael Jackson ["Michael's White Hands" is apparently "inspired by the magical spectacle that is Michael Jackson."] Oddly enough, "Michael's White Hands" is the most Swan-like and directly brutal song on the record, where for nearly half of its length, Michael is found screaming in agony. This is a cathartic experience of sorts, I suppose. Otherwise, the record is filled with acoustic guitars, gentle underlying bass lines and lots of floating choruses. Michael sounds just as down and morose as he has in the past. The back up female vocals are quite divine. Sometimes though, I wish Angles of Light would break out of the folk malaise, and get mean and loud for a change. Then again, I know it's still possible to get cathartic without the use of volume and extremes. These are really great pop-folk-rock songs [or whatever other label you want to dump on this group] that should really be played on radio. [The only problem is radio is as usual scared shitless of "dangerous" independent music not released by the majors.] "Angels of Light Sing Other People" is a softer, gentler but equally potent exercise in exorcising personal demons.

Akron/Family is a new quartet out of the US. Their sound can somewhat be likened to that of Angels of Light, in its ethereal beauty and its stark lyrical sense. This quartet is even more folk-oriented and somber than Michael Gira's group. There is little sunshine in their world. Long, drawn-out vocals and slowly evolving song structures ensure a very mellow, though an uneasy listen. Their sense of melody and lyrics is very fine tuned, though not overtly polished. Imagine a less depressing version of Red House Painters, with some lovely choruses thrown in for good measure. This is truly genuine music of splendour, interspersed with dim, ominous visions of anguish.

Tom Sekowski

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+ SIRONE BANG ENSEMBLE - Configuration
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