Michael Gira's last album—2005's The Angels Of Light Sing Other People—was so heart-stoppingly intimate, his voice wasn't heard so much as it was felt on the nape of the neck. Gira takes a step back with We Are Him, but the polite distance is just as pregnant with tension. The former Swans frontman has enlisted many of his usual cohorts—members of Akron/Family as well as violinist Eszter Balint, the ingénue of Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise—resulting in an alienated yet sensuous shade of death-rattle folk. "Black River Song" opens the disc with intravenous guitar work and Gira's eroded, elemental gnarl, pitched heavenward and wrapped in a girlish chorus. Subsequent tracks, like "Promise Of Water," are typical insect-crawl dirges, but Gira shines on the retching, pounding "My Brother's Man" and the eerily whimsical "Sunflower's Here To Stay," which might just be an ode to the Beach Boys. As much as he's painted as a dour American Nick Cave, Gira's range of tone and emotion is given open pasture here, and We Are Him is one his strongest, most horrifically hypnotic works yet.

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