Devendra Banhart talks some wild voodoo in interviews: Bulldogs plastic-surgery'd to look like the senior member of Venezuelan families; rambling, rhyming word associations to innocent questions like "What inspires you?" So when he brings up "the angels of light," it seems like yet another folkie cosmonaut journey, that the angels of light are in his hands and through them he channels Donovan--or something. But it's actually more concrete than that.
Angels of Light is a band headed by the guy that "discovered" Banhart, Michael Gira. After Gira's Swans broke up in 1997, he began Angels of Light as a solo deal. A man of many projects, Gira owns Young God Records, does spoken-word, and produces records, but Angels of Light is his primary focus for now. Which is good, because Gira's brand-new album is so awesome you should buy 400 copies.
The Angels of Light Sing 'Other People' uses Gira's time-tested collaboration model: He records the songs by himself, on acoustic guitar, then turns the tapes over to various friends who lay down the "orchestration"--as he calls it. After that, he edits and tweaks their collage until it's a whole new beast.
This time it's Young God's Akron/Family backing him up--whistling, singing harmonies to Gira's oddly distant voice, and stacking glockenspiel atop snappy plucks of acoustic guitar and lyrics about Revelation, pedophiles, and demons. (Gira's band name is a New Testament reference about demons disguising themselves as angels.) It's heavy stuff, but only in the lyrics; the music is as playful as baby apes.
Where Gira's Swans was sludgy and grinding, Angels of Light pips around nimble and airy--like frogs on lily pads or hummingbirds darting through hibiscus brush. After making battleship-heavy Swan music for 15 years, this must feel like the biggest tension release ever. A huge sigh after a long damn day.