To claim that this man is one of the greatest talents to have surfaced from the late '70s/early '80s NYC post-punk/art-noise scene would only prove to be an embarrassing understatement. Through Swans and their 2010 Swans Are Not Dead reformation, various collaborative or solo works and onto the The Angels Of Light, the group he founded in the '90s, Michael Gira possesses the rare ability to craft the kind of songs capable of shifting and rearranging new sonic continents from the simplest of ideas. Never afraid to explore his concerns as an artist, his vision falters at the merest hint of compromise. Michael Gira's passion for music goes way beyond his own endeavours too. Over the years, through his Young God Records imprint, he has introduced the world to many new artists, including Fire On Fire, Devendra Banhart, Mi and L'au and Akron/Family. His long discussed album for LTCo finally appeared in early December 2006 and comprises selected recordings from both his (YGR website available-only) two 'solo at home' albums as well as three others previously unavailable (including a new version of the wonderful 'God Damn the Sun', which was first recorded by Swans) . It is pressed on heavier vinyl, housed in a suitably deluxe sleeve and limited to 2000 copies. Please refer to the Releases section for ordering information. More information can be found at his website: Young God Records
Review by Tony Dickie for Compulsion Online Compulsion Online
The more discerning listener will be aware that for sometime Michael Gira has been releasing a series of homemade CD-Rs with handmade covers of songs sung solo in the office / studio. They've cut to the essence of the musical output of his current project Angels of Light, stripped to voice and guitar, shorn of the arrangements and overdubs so favoured on the numerous releases from Angels of Light. It's from here that Songs For A Dog, particularly the first side, takes as its starting point with 10 tracks selected by Gira himself for this limited vinyl release on the UK's Lumberton Trading Company. Lyrically the tracks remain largely biographical, in parts real and imaginary, alongside tributes to friends and aquaintances, though not without their emotional pull on the listener. Included here is a nascent version of 'Rose of Los Angeles' written about his mother as she lay on her death bed. It is remarkably poignant even though its meaning is somewhat obscured. The sorry tale of alcohol, depression and death that is 'God Damn The Sun' remains a remarkably sad song, and delivered so starkly is perhaps the finest version of this song that first aired on the Swans Burning World album. Elsewhere man's propensity for violence is captured on 'Destroyer', a song written in the run up to the Iraq war. 'Lena's Song', however, is altogether more optimistic, being as it a redemptive tribute to a kind hearted lady who took in the young homeless Gira during his teenage wandering in Israel. The second side of the album is perhaps more including as it does collaborations with Dan Matz and an outtake from the second Angels of Light album, New Mother. Listening to the 'God's Servant' a full ensemble piece you wonder why this was left off New Mother. I first heard this on Solo Recordings At Home and it still sounds good to me. I've never heard Gira's collaboration with Dan Matz, released as What We Did but the two tracks, built around Gira's compositions, display a country feel. The employment of banjo, reverb guitar and harmonica licks and female vocal accompaniment on 'Lines' imbues the track with a backwater country feel. I must confess, though, my favourite track on this side is the solo track 'Purple Creek', a hazy reverie full of yearning for an imaginary place and lover. The sheer thought of Gira penning a song for children is scary, yet 'Mean Monster Mike' written for the children of some friends is particularly disturbing with Gira deadpanning lyrics such as: 'Let's do the monster dance', 'Oh no, he's gonna tickle us'. I guess, this is what must pass for children's entertainment in the Gira household. And even though, it appears sometimes, that Gira is, somehow, embarassed with much of his musical past something like 'Mean Monster Mike' is evidence that, at heart, Michael Gira is an endearing and affable fellow. It's a curious piece amongst the rest of Songs For A Dog, an album that reveals, to those yet unelightened, that at the core Michael Gira is one hell of a gifted songwriter. All told, it's stark intimacy is overpowering, and a worthwhile spin on what we've come to expect from Michael Gira. Songs For A Dog is released in an edition of 2000 copies.
Review by Tom Sekowski for Gaz-Eta
Grabbed from his two solo releases "Solo Recordings at Home" and "I Am Singing to You from My Room", "Songs for a Dog" sees Michael Gira duel it out with himself on a number of acoustic recordings. By no means of the imagination are these simply outtakes or discarded songs. Each one sees the master with much tranquility infused. He's not only tranquil; he's still bitter and pissed off. Best of all, he doesn't keep any of this anger inside. Sure, he's mellowed since the days of early Swans albums, but Gira is ultimately Gira. Some things you simply can't change. Throughout this LP only release, I kept noticing how deeply drenched his songs are in the blues and folk idioms. Ultimately, Gira is baring his soul as usual, though this time around he's only accompanied with his acoustic guitar. In this type of a setting, you're bound to notice more of Gira's voice that you may not have paid attention to in the past. His deep baritone is felt with greater intensity while his growl and whine are even better suited to this type of a bare scenario. Swans classic "God Damn The Sun" sounds even more brutal this time around than it did twenty years ago when it was originally penned. The song now takes on a bleaker shade of black, while Gira's voice is even more potent. Sending chilling tickles up and down my spine, the record is bound to remain a personal favourite for those special moments of self-loathing and hate. Produced in an edition of only 2000 copies, if Gira's name is one close to your heart, I recommend you pick this gem up with great haste.