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THE ANGELS OF LIGHT

Prog Folk • United States


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The Angels of Light biography
THE ANGELS OF LIGHT are a progressive country/folk/post-folk group formed by SWANS front-man Michael Gira. Their dark, multilayered sound evokes the same Americana feel of the likes of BRUCE LAMONT, BEAT CIRCUS, WOVENHAND, LARKIN GRIMM, 16 HORSEPOWER, REVEREND GLASSEYE and SLIM CESSNA'S AUTO CLUB among others.

>> Bio by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth) <<

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THE ANGELS OF LIGHT discography


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THE ANGELS OF LIGHT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.67 | 3 ratings
New Mother
1999
4.61 | 9 ratings
How I Loved You
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
We Were Alive
2002
4.50 | 2 ratings
Everything is Good Here / Please Come Home
2003
4.50 | 2 ratings
The Angels of Light Sing "Other People"
2005
4.76 | 6 ratings
We Are Him
2007

THE ANGELS OF LIGHT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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THE ANGELS OF LIGHT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Praise Your Name
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Akron/Family & Angels of Light
2005

THE ANGELS OF LIGHT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 How I Loved You by ANGELS OF LIGHT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.61 | 9 ratings

BUY
How I Loved You
The Angels of Light Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars When you hear the name Michael Gira, what is the first musical style that comes to mind? Chances are, it's probably not folk music. Yet, he spent almost a decade putting his dark style in a progressive folk band called "The Angels of Light". While his other band "Swans" was on hiatus, this is what he was spending his time doing. That in and of itself should be enough of an incentive to look into this band, yet they go pretty much unexplored in the archives.

So, for those that are interested in exploring this interesting combination of progressive folk and gothic styles, this is one of their best albums to start with. Released in 2001, this is the projects 2nd full length album. Gira utilizes several musicians in this band that play all sorts of folk-style instruments including acoustic guitars, piano, lap steel guitars, a hammered dulcimer, castanets, ukulele, saw, melodica, accordion, and so on. Sometimes these are used as you would traditionally expect, while at other times they create some surprising drones that stretch the western musical boundaries right into eastern musical traditions. To better feel what the music is like, imagine what it would sound like to have Ennio Morricone doing post-rock and shoegaze gothic music, and you would have an idea of how it all sounds. Dark, sinister and tense, but all with a folk sensibility.

"How I Loved You" is the name of the album which boasts 10 songs that range from 3 minutes up to almost 12 minutes in length. The music never gets to the level of the black sludgey sounds of the Swans early years, however once they started delving into the gothic/post-rock style is all carried over into this folk band. It all starts with the 8 minute "Evangeline" which has that unmistakable folk style following a basic post-rock formula, starting off light, but building and building upon repetitive passages. Halfway through, some wordless background vocals come in as the music becomes more intense. This is followed by "Untitled Love Song" which is more like an alternative folk song, lovely and wistful with Gira's deep vocals mixed in with a higher register female vocalist. Then, "My True Body" is more imposing, dark and gothic sounding making great use of Gira's deep vocals, almost like Johnny Cash, but with a grittier and more threatening tone to them. The earlier reference to Morricone is really evident in the shorter "Jennifer's Sorry" with dark lyrics set against the western gothic sound.

Also evident in this album are hints of psychedelic undertones, as in the track "Song for Nico", the influence of the namesake of the song is evident. The track is not quite as dark as the last two tracks, but it is light and mythical with hints at tensness as some minor chords are held a little longer than one would normally expect. "New City in the Future" takes it's time to develop with its length almost reaching 12 minutes. Eerie synths produce sustained chords and twinkling notes on the top end as a slow distant beat emulating a Native American drums come in the background introducing a mysterious sounding guitar. Vocals come in a droning fashion at first conjuring images of old abandoned wooden building creaking in the hot breeze blowing over a desert landscape. The instruments begin to drone along as he describes snapshots of bleakness and things almost become a shoegaze style, but with a country mentality. This song really approaches the chaotic tone and style of Swans as it nears the end and builds a surprisingly heavy intensity before finally backing off.

"My Suicide" is a simple country two-step creating by a strumming acoustic guitar and a cello effect. The lyrics are dark yet quite clear as more layers are created by additional instruments. "New York Girls" turns to a much softer tone even with the vocals becoming more understated. The instruments are also quite with the right touch of psychedelic tones behind it all reminding one of earlier Pink Floyd songs. There is a nice instrumental break where intensity builds and backs off again for the 3rd vers. There is a sudden clash of dissonance and heaviness that turns suddenly sinister with some chanting voices. "Public Embarassment Blues" is also a softer feeling track with a repeating 3/4 meter and the slide guitar crying in the background. "Two Women" closes it all off with another epic 12 minute track. Meandering guitars start it off but give way to a strumming acoustic guitar as Gira begins singing. In the end, it becomes another post-rock based composition that builds and wanes throughout.

This excellent album is a great example of the mixing of different styles that you wouldn't expect. There is no doubt the overall influence of folk music in the lyrics and instrumentation, but it is often built upon either post rock, gothic, psychedelic and droning styling. There might be a few other bands out there like Wovenhand or 16 Horsepower that create that dark, gothic folk sound, but none do it quite so well as this project. Of course, the return of Swans would eventually mean the demise of The Angels of Light, but at least Gira left us with enough albums to explore his experiments with the progressive folk genre. It would be a shame if people didn't at least try it out, but I have a feeling that there would be a lot more of fans won over to this project if they did.

 We Are Him by ANGELS OF LIGHT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.76 | 6 ratings

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We Are Him
The Angels of Light Prog Folk

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars I find it interesting that this band has not received any written reviews here in Prog Archives.

This is a band headed by Michael Gira, frontman for Swans, that was put together while Swans was disbanded the first time. Of course, we know that Swans are back and better than ever, but what happened between that time that Gira and Swans was making sludgy metal and inventive goth rock to when he was making amazing and epic progressive rock? Well, here is your answer. And if you haven't heard this music by 'Angels of Light', you might be surprised.

The music is listed under Prog Folk here in the archives, and there is an element of folk in this music, along the lines of 'Woven Hand' or Tom Waits, but it is also adventurous as it was with Swans in that Gira continues to experiment with repetition. The music is dark, dark, dark, which is what you would expect of Gira, but it is still a huge change of pace from what he did previously. However, when you hear this music, the transition to progressive music seems more natural than it does if you just accept the gap in the music of Swans.

'We Are Him' is the 6th album by Angels of Light, so obviously this wasn't just a passing fancy for Gira. It features an awesome array of instruments and performers, a lot of them classically trained. To me, the singing is reminiscent of A Silver Mt. Zion, and I find myself reminded of their music a lot as there is a lot of building upon repetition in the music, but you do have that more folk-ish feeling in the music of Angels of Light. Gira is a better vocalist than Efrim Menuck from A Silver Mt. Zion, even though his vocals are deep. When Gira has backing vocalists singing with him here, it even sounds like that 'looseness' in the chorus that you feel with ASMZ.

The big difference here, is this music is not post rock. It is not even prog folk at times either, though that is probably the closest thing to compare it to. But when you listen to 'My Brother's Man', you would think it's a left over from Swans. There is that repetition, but it's not heavy, but it is intense. Contrast that with 'Promise of Water' which has that more folkish element with cello, violin and a choral background and you almost think you are listening to 2 different bands. But in both cases, the music is so gooooood.

Gira's low vocals add to the mysteriousness of this music. To me, they sound more natural than they ever have. 'Not Here/Not Now' takes Gira's background with post rock and applies it quite nicely to this folk style in that he builds upon a repeating riff with a mandolin and acoustic guitars. Then on 'Joseph's Song' you would almost swear you are listening to the ghost of Lou Reed. The song is reminiscent of 'Velvet Underground' with its minimalistic beginning and then halfway through, the sudden appearance of percussion, accordion and trombone.

These are just a few examples of the brilliance of this album. The surprises continue through all of the tracks. There is so much variety in the music and Gira never lets up in the inventive use of variety and mixing music genres. This album is probably one of his most diverse and dynamic albums, and I rate it way up there with his best Swans albums, namely 'The Seer' and 'My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky'. The music is top notch and always interesting, and words don't do it justice. I just don't understand how this band has been so overlooked. 5 stars without a doubt.

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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