Akron/Family | Review | Brandon Stosuy

majestic psychedelia

Known first for fronting the ultra '80s Downtown New York noise pioneers Swans, Michael Gira still records arresting music as Angels Of Light. Sick of music biz bureaucracies, he started Young God Records in 1997, reissuing Swans and releasing Angels Of Light as well as the work of kindred musical entities. His biggest find thus far is Devendra Banhart, but alas, the archangel of freak-folk recently wandered off to XL, so the ever-busy Gira's back to unearthing new voices. His most recent discovery (and current Angels Of Light studio/tour backing band) is Akron/Family, Brooklyn/Manhattan-based multi-instrumentalists who make Appalachian arias for rusted-out fire escapes. Difficult to pin down, the quartet creates gentle acoustic hymnals, majestic psychedelia, pastoral field recordings, nugget-sized ballads, and spacious drone. Peel back an arpeggio to unearth a looping playground undertow. Split a glockenspiel chime or birdcall and find a trumpet/melodica interlude packed inside. Textually, the colorful lyrics, with their burning horizons and gentle details ("Comb / My hair with your hand"), read like haiku in their spare simplicity. Rising above the rattle to impart these elliptical narrations, Ryan Vanderhoof's whispered breaths and airy falsetto are lovely in their own right, and he's often joined by his equally adept compatriots for four-part harmonies that bring to mind a country-time Animal Collective/Danielson Famile picnic. The album drags here and there, and the band isn't as gloriously singular as Banhart (or Gira), but Akron/Family's debut is certainly brimming with a multitude of ideas, and after repeat listens, even some of the roughest edges smooth out to reveal beautiful minutiae.