Angels of Light & Akron/Family | Review

The Illinois Times | René Spencer Saller

His saturnine baritone gains new strength from these measured infusions of chaos.

Jan 27/06

Depending on your tolerance for so-called freak folk the latest hipster-sanctioned descriptor for acoustic-based music that doesn't reek of unchecked earnestness ex-Swans leader Michael Gira is either a hero or a villain. As the founder of Young God Records, he may be lauded or cursed for unleashing Devendra Banhart on an unsuspecting world a few years back. Since then, Banhart has been pretty much ubiquitous ridiculously prolific in his own right and a tireless champion of lesser-known acts. But if Banhart is freak folk's Jesus (long hair, full beard, swarthy complexion, and all!), Gira is its Jehovah.

Now Gira has a new messiah to pimp: Akron/Family, a ramshackle New York City-based collective that does double duty as Angels of Light (a.k.a. Gira and whomever he anoints to back him). Last year, Akron/Family released its self-titled debut and supported Gira on the latest Angels of Light outing; now the band wears both hats at once on the split CD Akron/Family & Angels of Light, which consists of seven original tracks sans Gira, four tracks penned and sung by Gira, and one Gira-voiced cover, Bob Dylan's "I Pity the Poor Immigrant." Although the AoL songs generally lack the lunatic energy of the A/F contributions, Gira sounds more vital than he has in years, whether he's revisiting an old Swans number or simply basking in his young cohorts' cacophonous soundscapes. His saturnine baritone gains new strength from these measured infusions of chaos, but it's the A/F originals that stick with you in the end. In the incantatory "Future Myth," the band marshals ambient noise, avant-minimalism, '70s prog, and anthemic art-folk, creating a clattering triumph and a magisterial disaster in eight minutes that, against all odds, transpire too quickly.