••• SIGNED BY M.GIRA•••
A week after an extended US Tour and a few shows in Europe Akron/Family and I went into the studio and recorded this album straightaway. Everything was recorded live, with a few overdubs - mixed and finished in nine 8-hour days. Akron/Family is my favorite "Rock Band" in the universe (or "rock-related band" - something like that!). I watched every show they did from beginning to end for about 40 concerts and was consistently amazed. The audience responses - for a then almost completely unknown band - were astounding. They tear down the roof. They generate such pure JOY, coupled with a wild sense of constant invention, that it's impossible not to get sucked into their weird world of sonic chaos, then gorgeous vocal harmonies, then march-of-the-crazed-clowns with ever-escalating psychedelic mantra crescendos, then country stomps, then genuinely touching plaintive, atmospheric songs, then extended improvisations, then into some kind of Beatles meets Beefheart backwoods midnight incantation ("Raising The Sparks" - a song that never fails to get the audience whooping like suddenly zapped and enlightened idiots) - and on and on. A friend of mine saw them and, struggling to find a way to describe them, said that they contain the entire history of rock music, sometimes in a single song. Ha ha! Preposterous, but sort of accurate. So, their songs on this album, coming right off a lengthy tour in which they also played a set of my songs every night as Angels of Light, just leap out of the speakers, in my opinion. I don't think I've ever seen a band in the 25 years that I've been personally making "rock" music contain the elements of exuberant experimentation, flat out intense, ecstatic and focused performance, and immediate accessibility that they possess.... Also contained on this album are 5 songs performed by me, with Akron/Family serving as (my) Angels of Light. They have an uncanny ability to step into the world of the songs I wrote (also covered here is Bob Dylan's "I Pity The Poor Immigrant²) - without imposing their own aesthetic - and lift them up to something beyond what I could have initially imagined. I've never had a better backing band, ever. I hope you enjoy this record!
- Michael Gira/Angels of Light/Young God Records
This album was recorded and mixed at Trout Recording, Brooklyn, by Bryce Goggin (Phish, Lemonheads, Ramones, Swans, Pavement, Angels of Light etc etc). It was co-Produced by Michael Gira and Akron/Family.
AKRON/FAMILY: "...Akron/Family has accomplished what most musicians fail to do in an entire career. In a perfect combination of inspired production, innovative instrumentation and transcendent songwriting... a richly layered and flowing album that is as emotional as it is challenging... already transcended category with its eponymous debut full-length." - Prefix.com
ANGELS OF LIGHT: "Gira's recent employment as producer and label boss to Akron/Family has been a transforming experience for all parties. The energizing effect the younger group has had on Gira's creative energies and artistic output are copiously in evidence throughout these recordings. Together, they have produced a form of beautiful, rustic pop music. If Brian Wilson had crashed a motorcycle and holed up to recuperate at Big Pink with The Band, this is how the Basement Tapes would have sounded." - The Wire
3/11/2006 | dustedmagazine.com | Adam MacGregor
Akron/Family & Angels of Light | Review
There's something sunny and friendly about Akron/Family
Artist: Akron/Family / Angels of Light
Review date: Feb. 26, 2006
Proteges ex-Swan leader Michael Gira knows how to pick 'em. To wit: The success of current neo-folk darling Devendra Banhart, whose first few albums Gira released on his Young God label, while also having subsequently employed Banhart as one of his Angels of Light. Likewise, when it came time to for the most recent restaff of AoL's ever-mutable lineup, Gira employed Brooklynites the Akron/Family, which perform an admirable double role on this latest release, their second on Young God. As such, it's more of a "split-personality" release more than a split project proper, wherein the only difference in personnel among the tracks over both segments is the addition of Gira himself on the five AoL songs. Gira has discovered a strange and wonderful roots-rock boy band of sorts in A/F. Their first seven tracks exude a country and blues-inflected jubilance without succumbing to jam band excess. A/F's four-tiered vocal arrangements have invited a spate of Beach Boys comparisons; nonetheless, it's hard not to suspect that Brian Wilson or (shudder) the Lettermen may have had an inspirational hand in the album opener, "Awake." As suddenly as the lullaby takes effect, the band obliterates it with the blast of free improv that opens "Moment" during which the harmonies take a turn to somewhere between Godspell and the Muppets. "Future Myth" lopes along propelled by fingerpicked guitar, peppered with the tinkling of that friendliest of all instruments, the glockenspiel, the playful noodling of a penny whistle and the ringing drone of what sounds like bowed vibraphone. There's something sunny and friendly about Akron/Family, the kind of music that grips your hand, smiles and looks you in the eye like it's instantly and genuinely glad to know you. It's this accessibility sans pandering that may be the band's greatest strength recommended to all in search of guilt-free, feel-good music. "I've never had a better backing band, ever," Gira said, and indeed, the elder statesman presides over his golden find with gentle discipline, reigning in their flights of fancy enough to deliver the intently performed, dynamic-rich dark Americana that has become AoL's hallmark over the last few albums. The cover of Bob Dylan's "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" sets the table for "The Provider," an Appalachian raga set to a steadily plodding shuffle, and punctuated by stabs of Quine-esque guitar skronk. "One for Hope," one of Gira's cyclical ballads features choirboy backing vocals that complement Gira's plaintive lead. It's those A/F trademark harmonies, again, that hint in part at intriguing new territory on the reworking of the Swans' "Mother/Father." Sung accapella over a vaguely afro-beat rhythm, the tune sounds nothing like the original, nor quite like anything either artist has done previously. Gira didn't necessarily need artistic rejuvenation, but it was bound to happen anyway, as the song goes, when he found the "right bunch of fellows." Cheers to the second installment of this beautiful friendship.
Alex V. Cook, Music Editor
THE NUCLEAR FAMILY HAS EXPLODED MY MIND
(excerpt of the review)
the Kinks- meets- Dixie Dregs godhead rocker "Raising the Sparks" send you into a spin, stomping out of your classroom or job with authority figure mutedly shouting at your back as you run off to join the Revolution
.... allow me to join you in congratulating myself on being an early adopter of Akron/Family, the most exhilarating and solid weirdie-beardie band in operation. The new Animal Collective, which was the new Flaming Lips which was the new Floyd on and on and on, this here second release by my favorite rock Mennonites from Brooklyn shows they are tangential path to musical glory. Their half of his dispatch opens (³Awake²) with a slow guitar ramble and Abbey Road harmonies setting this spooky ride in motion. Already it sounds more mature, more solid than their exquisite leafpile of a debut. ³Moment² then explodes in a cascading cacophony for a full minute before descending into he most joyous shout-along song on the line theses days. They sound like a four man Polyphonic Spree, with twice the wild and half the gimmicky collective consciousness instead of being the latter¹s show choir, they operate like extensions from a common mind, with a great Krimson-meets-Skynnyrd guitar runs that will send any of you into a fit of unbridled happiness. Latter day Allman Brothers My Morning Jacket have their work cut out for them on their highly anticipated album Z in with ³Moment.² ŒWe all Will² is just a beautiful melody, harnessing the don¹t-make-me-grow-up horse Roger Waters and Ray Davies rode long before them and lights out for the territories. ³Future Myth² twinkles like birds, like someone gave them the assignment to tear apart the instrumental breaks from Styx songs and create something meaningful and beautiful and ageless from them.
Its all just great stuff. ³Dylan pt 2² acts as a 4-minute distillation of the death-blues-pop cycle closing out Abbey Road, pushing the boundaries that stretch (really, if I have to listen to the Beatles, like you are making me, side two of Abbey Road is the poison I choose.) mixing that same deft guitar work, detuned harmonies and batshit explosions. ³Oceanside² is a refreshingly tranquil piece after all the hysterics getting you ready for the Kinks-meets-Dixie Dregs godhead rocker ³Raising the Sparks² send you into a spin, stomping out of your classroom or job with authority figure mutedly shouting at your back as you run off join the Revolution. Akron /Family may be wearing their influences on their sleeves, but goddamn they wear them with style. Right now, this moment while listening to it, I think they are the best band in the world. I don¹t know if it will stay with me, but transcendence in its very nature is fleeting, so grab that comets tail while you can.
You have ex-Swans and archaeologist that brought Devendra Banhart to the surface Michael Gira to thank. Like with Banhart, he put his feelers out and discovered a second implausibly great group to promote. On this split, and as with his last Angels of Light album, he was shrewd enough to recognize the good thing before him and employ these beat farmers as his backing band, and drops five of the warmest examples of his folk brilliance on the back end of this disk. Gira is known for creating music that is exquisitely hard and cold, whether its the megaton death bomb rock of Swans or the ghost-looking-back-at-you-in-the-mirror plaintive music of his Angels of Light, but on How I Loved You, we started to see some of his reserve fall away and almost see this notoriously grim figure crack a smile. On the opening track, a cover of Dylan¹s ³I Pity The Poor Immigrant² we see some of that warmth glowing even brighter, but its back to the iceberg for the minimalist folk dirge ³The Provider.² It must be said here, Akron Family are supremely versatile musicians, in that they rein in their campfire Bacchanalia to become the steam engine-cum-grandfather clock of God that Gira needs to flesh out these harrowing songs. His trademark baritone sounds more comfortable than I¹ve ever heard it, and the stuff just rocks, like swarms and swarms of locusts are picking the meat off your carcass and you¹ve quit fighting them, ready to take on the inevitable with chilled resolve.
After that epic, perhaps Gira¹s best song ever, ³One for Hope² is a relaxing pastoral number, (this seems to be a well-olied Akron/Family operational plan) and the remake of the Swans track from Œ94 ³Mother/Father² as a drum circle chant is just, well, enchanting. The final number ³Come For My Woman² casts Gira¹s voice in a Roy Orbison envelope of velvet and vibrato guitar, bringing this western ballad in the realm of the sublime. Gira has a good thing going here with this group, both a bandleader and producer, and it seems they him as well. Banhart¹s rocket shot through the atmosphere of Gira¹s hand-handled Young God records, and word has it that its an amiable shift, but I¹m hoping he holds onto these guys. They are a glistening brilliant band unto themselves, and acting as his Angels of Light, I think he¹s finally found the sympathetic foils to his particular art he¹s been needing. The previous Angels albums have been carefully engineered almost to a fault, these tracks bring an element of danger and uncertainty into the mix that I think really suits Gira¹s persona and presence. Powerful stuff. I highly recommend this album if your are a person whose mind is sorely in need of a good blowing, and given the climate of aggressive conformity and homogeneity that is passing for culture nowadays, I¹m guessing that you are one of these people.