The Angels of Light - Biography
The Angels of Light played Michael Gira’s minimal folk songs, painstakingly arranged. The band’s vision is more or less continuous with the singer and guitarist’s previous band, Swans, who began performing acoustic material on 1987’s great Children of God. Gira (pronounced “jee-RA”) formed the Angels of Light in 1999, two years after Swans’ final “Swans Are Dead” tour. Gira released the band’s music through his own Young God Records, originally founded to release Swans material, though the label went on to release albums by Devendra Banhart, Akron/Family, Flux Information Sciences, Ulan Bator and others.
Many people played in the Angels of Light, but Gira’s most regular collaborators seem to have been former Swans guitarist Christoph Hahn and multi-instrumentalist/singer Birgit Staudt, both of whom lasted for the duration of the project, and Gira’s wife, singer Siobhan Duffy Gira (formerly of God Is My Co-Pilot), who first appeared with the Angels of Light in 2001. New Mother (1999 Young God) was the Angels of Light’s first album. The photo of Michael Gira’s mother on the cover of their second, How I Loved You (2001 Young God), came from a 1940s Look Magazine feature; Gira’s father is pictured on the album’s back cover.
The live album We Were Alive!!! (2002 Young God), limited to 750 CDs signed by Gira, documented Angels of Light’s 2001 tour. Guitarist Kid Congo Powers, formerly of the Cramps, the Gun Club, and the Bad Seeds, is one of many fine musicians on Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home (2003 Young God). (Powers had also played on two songs on How I Loved You.) The newly signed Young God band Akron/Family performed seven originals and backed Gira on five songs on the split CD Akron/Family & Angels of Light (Young God 2005), which included Gira’s cover of “I Pity the Poor Immigrant” from Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding. Akron/Family was also the core of Gira’s backing band on The Angels of Light Sing “Other People” (2005 Young God), “written as a tribute to friends, heroes and various other entities beyond my control,” and on We Are Him (2007 Young God), though again both albums featured the talents of numerous other Angels.
Nothing further has issued from the Angels of Light since We Are Him, and it seems likely that the group is at least on hiatus following Gira’s January 2010 announcement that he was “reactivating”—not reuniting—Swans. Writing about the decision to restart Swans on his website, Gira said: “After 5 Angels Of Light albums, I needed a way to move FORWARD, in a new direction, and it just so happens that revivifying the idea of Swans is allowing me to do that.” The new Swans lineup includes former Angels Phil Puleo and Thor Harris as well as old Swans Norman Westberg and Christoph Hahn.