Akron/Family | Review | Justin Sheppard

"Raising the Sparks" is music to dance naked around a bonfire to

November 8, '05 Akron/Family & Angels of Light Akron/Family & Angels of Light Release Date: 2005-11-08 Label: Young God Not content with resting on the laurels of a well-received eponymous debut and serving as the backing band for Angels of Light Sing "Other People," Akron/Family has teamed up with Michael Gira once again, this time in the form of a split album. (Well, sort of: The band again serves as Michael's Angels and appears on each of the album's twelve songs, so it's really more of a collaborative project, but I digress.) Three albums in one year certainly risks overexposure, but thankfully this bearded collective of freak-folkers shows enough growth to avoid stagnation. In many ways, the seven songs Akron/Family penned for this album show a natural progression for the group. The debut displayed a timid, youthful crush for raw noise in between all that gentle guitar strumming and ambient sounds. That innocence is gone now, replaced by a post-pubescent lust. This shift is apparent right from the album's onset. A solemn dirge built on haunting vocal harmonies, opener "Awake" weighs you down like a wet blanket only to segue directly into a spastic, guitar explosion with "Moment." The bands' other songs play out in similarly unpredictable ways, swinging from one extreme to another without a care for continuity. The results are confounding at first, but let the songs germinate awhile and you'll begin to see their brilliance. "Future Myth" is a work of schizophrenic genius, and "Raising the Sparks" is music to dance naked around a bonfire to. Unfortunately, the dichotomy between the chaotic glee of Akron/Family's set and Gira's more traditional leanings diminishes the album's luster. The transition from "Raising the Sparks" to Gira's quirky baritone crooning "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" doesn't do the latter any favors. With the exception of "The Provider," where he lets go of the reigns for a moment or two, Gira's compositions stifle the band's creativity. This isn't to say Gira is without merit as an artist, but Akron/Family's output here is a tough act to follow, and his inclusion turns a great EP into merely a good album.