Akron/Family and Angels of Light | Review

College Times/Mesa Arizona | Jeremy Iverson

creating songs that never go in the direction expected

December,  '05
Grade: A ....(ha ha!!!!)

If you read any of the press Michael Gira's done this year, you'd get the strong sense that he has become Akron/Family's patron. The band seems to have become his muse, providing his backing band for his "Sings Other People" because of the energy and talent he felt they possessed.

For their part, Akron/Family seems to have taken to working closely with Gira as their mentor and producer. On this new split, where A/F again play with Gira as Angels of Light, and on their own with Gira producing, the relationship is clearly inspirational for both groups.

A/F provides the first seven tracks. The music on their self-titled debut only hints at the power on display here. With "Awake" the band opens the album quietly, with the group chanting the lyrics over minor key guitar, but immediately they explode into "Moment", a song bursting with noise and chaos, and some of the most conventional songwriting the band has done. Over the course of their songs, the band continues to move between pastoral folk
musings to Grateful dead-like jamming, while always exploring sonic possibilities, creating songs that never go in the direction expected, but never lose the power and beauty that make them so amazing.

The Angels of Light portion of the album begins with a cover of Bob Dylan's "I Pity The Poor Immigrant." The nearly conservative version of this song does little to hint at what's to come. With Gira's oddly compelling lyrics and voice similar in spirit, if not tone, to Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash, these are great songs; but with A/F as backing band, the tracks go from dark folk songs to something deeper. On ":The Provider," the group seems to be channeling classic The Velvet Underground into their gothic rural music; "Come For My Woman" ends the album with a folk rock ballad that bursts into controlled chaos that makes it seem all the more haunting.

It's odd, on the first several listens, to have the album switch gears in the middle, as you go from A/F's songs to Gira's. The latter is more formal and dark, while the former is odd and open, even slightly quirky, in a similar vein to Animal Collective's newer music. But further listens reveal this split release to be one of the most satisfying of the year, providing a musical journey that never ceases to amaze and confound.