Michael Gira: Songs for a Dog

An odd release, this – a mish-mash of previously released and unreleased material, it nevertheless provide a useful introduction to one side of Michael Gira’s post-Swans work.

Half of the ten songs are taken from I Am Singing to You From My Room, a solo CD originally released in a limited edition of 1000 through Gira’s website (a second edition is now available). Of the rest, two reappear from What We Did, Gira’s collaborative CD with Dan Matz of Windsor for the Derby, while one is an outtake from the sessions that produced New Mother, the first album by Gira’s principal post-Swans project, Angels of Light. Finally, there’s a solo version of one of Swans’ most harrowing songs, “God Damn The Sun”, and one completely new song, “Promise of Water”.

These songs represent Gira’s muse at its most stripped down and intimate, reflecting his urge to communicate through the simplest and purest of means. For the most part, they are shorn of the baroque intensity that characterises Gira’s work as Angels of Light. Although they consist of just a voice and an acoustic guitar, these are not folk songs. Wrought from dark, atavistic impulses, they proceed in a manner more akin to a sermon. Gira’s authoritative baritone moves effortlessly between the gentle, the reproachful and the accusatory, inhabiting the songs utterly and turning them into vehicles for spontaneous, unmediated expression. The lyrics are rapturous explosions of hallucinatory imagery, saturated in colours and sensations, while the guitar playing is a sinister, vertiginous thrumming. This is a truly potent mix; Gira’s take on songform is dazzling and unique.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 16, 2008)

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