Akron/Family | Review
Columbus Alive (arts weekly in ohio) | Chris DeVille
the record is something close to a revelation9/25/06
Here's the trouble with this record: It demands you come to it on its terms, terms that call for less of a negotiation than a complete surrender. A very specific mood is required to get down with Meek Warrior, and when that mood sets in, the record is something close to a revelation. The problem is, at least for me, that crazy, hazy state of mind comes around rather infrequently, so it took quite a few listens to work my way inside the weird world of Akron/Family. Now that I'm here, I see that it's a lovely place, even if its interior could use maid service and its inhabitants a barber.
Though I'm averse to labeling every off-kilter album with acoustic guitars "freak-folk," there's no escaping that Akron/Family sounds like a bunch of freaks who also happen to play folk music. They are not from Akron, but Brooklyn, hotbed of all that is trendy, though their conveniently timely psychedelia seems like a genuine labor of love, not some wagon hitched to Devendra Banhart's star.
Meek Warrior starts out in a somewhat misleading manner. "Blessing Force" is the least focused but most awesome song on the record, a 9 1/2-minute trip that begins with tribal drums and psychedelic guitar, blooms into a clap-and-stomp singalong reminiscent of an a capella Animal Collective, zooms through classic rock that recalls King Crimson and "Low Rider," drops suddenly into a mellow groove and just as suddenly into more gradually intensifying psych rock before finally descending into minutes of noise. The Family extends common song-ending cacophony past the point of most listeners' comfort, and that's probably the point.
Though "Blessing Force" is as attention deficit disorderly as a Fiery Furnaces record, the rest of Meek Warrior doesn't follow suit. The song would be a buffet platter of what will follow, except most of the other six numbers are strictly mellow, acoustic meditations that, while exploring psychedelia and noise, do so in much less frantic context. "Gone Beyond" relies on two very similar sections to convey a fascinating treatise on (drugs? space? the metaphyisical?) through a simple refrain of "Gone, gone, gone beyond/ Gone completely beyond." By sequencing "Gone Beyond" directly after "Blessing Force," it's as if Akron/Family is throwing more conventional listeners a bone, or perhaps they're proclaiming that they can be equally stunning via constant change as with incessant repetition.
Two tracks that reference space are the remaining highlights. "No Space in This Realm" envelopes spooky call-and-response lyrics in a melodic drone, while closer "Love and Space" is a mostly vocal gospel tune that asks, "Lord, open my heart/ Lord bring me near/ Lord, open my heart/ Lord, make it into a mirror/ To reflect the myriad colored lights of love and space." It's the most moving moment on an album that's just as confusing as it is revelatory. Some extended passages can cause a loss of focus, and even "Blessing Force," with directional changes akin to a housefly fearing for its life, is easy to lose sight of. Despite its pitfalls, Meek Warrior can be a thoroughly satisfying and mystifying experience if given the time to sink in. It's hard to blame those who don't give this record enough time to work its magic, but it's also hard not to feel sorry for them.