Angels of Light, How I Loved You

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 11.27.11 in Reviews
Sleek and sturdy, brimming with power and heartbroken pathos

Two years after Angels of Light’s debut, Michael Gira and his new group returned with How I Loved You, a collection of love songs — yes, love songs — that began as sketches for voice and guitar and gradually developed into the huge, full-ensemble pieces that they are. (Some songs, like “My Suicide,” mimic that process of becoming in their arrangements, beginning as skeletal, unadorned meditations and gradually growing into full-band rave-ups.) What felt shaky on the Angels’ debut is here swollen; what felt spindly is sleeker, sturdier, brimming with power and heartbroken pathos. Much of that surely has to do with the solidifying dynamics of the group, which again features Christoph Hahn, Larry Mullins, Thor Harris and Birgit-Cassis Staudt; “Our combined sensibilities feel very natural at this point,” said Gira at the time, “which I guess comes from having played most of the songs live a lot.” Bassist Dana Schechter, a member of the Angels’ touring lineup at the time, also appears on the record; a more surprising addition is Kid Congo Powers (of the Gun Club, the Cramps, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), who plays electric guitar on “My True Body” and “New York Girls.” If there’s any single player who stands out, however, it’s Hahn, whose lap steel guitar extends throughout the album like a glowing filament.