Akron/Family | Review | Sam Ubl

Angels of Light & Akron/Family Akron/Family & Angels of Light [Young God; 2005] Rating: 8.0 Akron/Family's self-titled debut awoke to gentle flickers of sun, but their new split with Young God patriarch/Angels of Light principal Michael Gira rises on a much drearier note. Plaintive acoustic guitar weeps a line of Frankensteinian despair, too weak to cry, while a monastic chant implores us, "awaken." This is not the same Family who welcomed us into its hovel last spring, and whose infectious bonhomie salved a disorientingly unfocused album. After that murmur of an opener, it can only be nap or nuke. "Moment" goes the latter route, blindsiding those who came for the pastoral folk with a dizzying free-punk mortar blast. What? This match-made-in-enchanted forest oozed possibilities, but barrel-rolling drums, cold unwound harmonics, and soaring off-key anthems were not in the cards. Nor was a simultaneous expansion and focusing of scope. The band embarks with eyes open wide, but by centerpiece "Future Myth" they're practically bulging out of their sockets. Two minutes of crescendoing chords, mimetic glockenspiel, and twittering synths simulate the sunrise we never got. The six ensuing ticks fold in climactic guitar riffage, a horn biting Sufjan biting Glass, and at least one surprisingly adroit hip-hop beat. Akron/Family's debut was a potluck affair-- more trash than treasure, multifariousness its biggest appeal. Low-lying nylon-strung verdure cohabited the same space as vocal powwows, a move straight out of the Neutral Milk Hotel gratuity bible. But the neighbors rarely spoke until now. Drippy with the band's wonted choral free-for-all and syrupy back-porch bends, "We All Will" shifts but doesn't rift. "Dylan pt. 2" circles back to "Market"'s bombastic drums without dropping later-established threads like the twang slang. In positioning for climax, the band sets up imminent disappointment. Stripped of expectation, then, "Raising the Sparks" is a surprising power stroke. Pinned by snare/tom stomp, a glitzy guitar harmony does its best Steely Dan as the song stampedes "na na na"ing into the night. Akron/Family love looping simple melodies and patterns ad infinitum, but the repetition is seldom epicentral; instead, it's space for their orchestral fog machine to fill. Backing Gira on his five-song set is a much different drift. Instead of hazes we get lines instead of drum circles, studio snares, as the band services its patriarch's works with sure-footed reverence. Gira's originals play second banana, occupying the record's back third. Dylan's "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" is rendered drunk by the crooner's loopy lower registers Akron kicking a listles shuffle "The Provider" builds off creeping metallic upbeats and consonant strings create a quicksandy murk over which Gira towers, never sinking. His star backing band even comes forward for a final surge, somehow managing to understate ululation. None of the tracks are more noteworthy than anything on Sing "Other People", Angels' latest and straightest LP, and the foreshortened format disables development. But Gira's fatherly measuredness is a nice foil to Akron's hyperkinetic mini-opera-- at this point, he may be overparenting, but damnit they'll thank him someday.