Review ·

Those who know Michael Gira strictly from his work as frontman for noise-rock legends Swans may have a difficult time imagining him indulging in folk-influenced sounds. Swans were abrasive, depraved, confrontational and blatantly offensive -- adjectives that aren�t often associated with folk music. But through his label, Young God Records, Gira has not only released troubadour Devendra Banhart�s breakthrough albums but also work from his own acoustic-minded band, the Angels of Light. The group�s fourth full-length, The Angels of Light Sing �Other People,� is characteristically bulgy, brimming and wide-ranging, but it�s also less charged than previous efforts.

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The album�s abundant acoustic instrumentation and liberal use of backing vocals create a surprisingly warm communal atmosphere. Opener �Lena�s Song� encapsulates the tone perfectly; its ramshackle handclaps, harmonica and whistles recall Animal Collective and the Books at their most jubilant. Gira endows each track with a full sound, but drums are nearly nonexistent, contributing to the more-inviting folk vibe. The Angels get carried away on �My Friend Thor,� though, veering from music-box noise to barbershop/Medulla-like vocals. While interesting individually, the elements never coalesce satisfactorily.

A sense of optimism and redemption that nonetheless acknowledges pain pervades The Angels of Light Sing �Other People.� The album�s opening lines, backed by rousing music, sum up the mood: �Lena has sung/ But she�ll sing again/ Beneath a desert sun/ In withered skin.� Even �Destroyer,� a politically loaded song about the consequences of war, is defiantly triumphant, despite the wrathful titular deity who comes �Down from the sun/ To wash this country clean.� The becalmed acoustic guitars and booming chorus contradict the dark subject matter, something that happens often throughout the album. No track reaches the raucous heights of �Rose of Los Angeles� from this album�s predecessor, 2003�s Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home, but Gira breathes fire on �Michael�s White Hands,� an ominous and eddying composition that gathers considerable steam. Other People proves the Angels of Light can wring intimacy as well as turmoil from their overflowing sound.

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