Love Is Simple | ReviewAnything is possible, everything is worth recording In 2002, four young lads from rural America wandered into Brooklyn and like some sort of crazy black magic: poof! out popped the Akron/Family. They defy all logic and comparisons, with sounds and influences ranging from folk and Americana to German-rock and psychedelic to tribal chants and world music to free jazz and punk (sometimes all within one song).
The Akron/Family has effectively established a new musical genre and religion/philosophy along with a unique haut couture (or is it prêt-à-porter?) reminiscent of Grizzly Adams circa 1977. In doing so, they ostracized themselves from pop music charts and airwaves (but remain a darling to critics and fellow musicians).
Their quasi-religion-cum-musical-philosophy is known as “AK” or “AK-AK.” As some sort of distant relative of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, “AK” is just another means to capture the randomness and pure essence of music. Eno limited himself by the fate of cards, but the Akron/Family’s primary goal is to discard as many of the inherent limitations of the recording of music as possible. Anything is possible, everything is worth recording. The resulting songs are carefully sculpted children of their grandiose and meandering mothers of invention.
Their name itself is a kind of senseless riddle. The slash between “Akron” and “Family” could suggest a possible correlation between the two nouns; perhaps synonyms, perhaps antonyms, perhaps neither. Are they attempting to create a meaning for the word “Akron” (besides a town in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Indiana, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Iowa, West Virginia…)? Or are they referring to the hydrogen-filled airship built in 1911? This is something for their audience to ponder but never solve. Buddha sure would be damn proud.
Love Is Simple is the Akron/Family’s third full-length on Michael Gira’s (Swans) Young God Records. Gira has gushed incessantly about these guys on press releases and the Young God website, all but hailing them the best band of the 21st century with hefty analogies of their live performances to Pink Floyd and Pere Ubu in their primes. Quite strong claims to make, but it is not far off mark. Just watch Akron/Family’s plethora of You Tube videos for a flavor of the intensity and power of their live performances (the little grainy images and crappy audio do little justice for the full onslaught on the senses upon experiencing them in the flesh).
Very few bands since the post-punk heyday of the early 80s have been willing to play with and push music’s natural boundaries, to do so would destroy their end game of being successful and/or rich. Listening to Akron/Family’s music, it is readily apparent that they are doing what they want and they are having fun doing so. They could give a furry rat’s ass about popularity and product sales. Their energy, creativity and playfulness are what make the Akron/Family something quite unique. I cannot think of a current band with comparative qualities.
Despite the complexities of sound on Love Is Simple, the Akron/Family effortlessly simplifies love and music to the sheer moment of Zen. Love is utilized as a motivation for protest, for action, for peace, for dance, for pleasure, for fun.
Repetition is important and meaningful. What goes around comes around. Love Is Simple spins you right round (like a record baby). The songs spiral out to a strange netherworld and then return to a naturally familiar place (“to all of the places that I have known”), like a journey through a musical labyrinth.
Love Is Simple is a spiritual awakening. Their choices of words and phrasing are equally calculated. The lyrics relate more to Buddhist mantras than rock or pop lyrics. Words and sounds are repeated like chants, engaging the audience to lose their sense of self as they drift (and dance) away into the land of “AK.”
Love is simple. Go out and love everyone. Love is all you need. Love, love, love…