A quirky and enjoyable album, but let down by an over-enthusiasm to shock and surprise.
Robert Jackman 2007-10-04
Since the advent of terms like ‘new weird America’ and ‘freak folk’, the musicians tagged by them have taken to them like challenges. As Devandra Banhart and Animal Collective push their music towards the fringes of obscurity, you could be forgiven for thinking they’d set out solely to stretch these knee-jerk, journalistic terms to breaking point.
Akron/Family are much the same. Having been saddled with the ‘freak folk’ tag – one of the snags of associating with Michael Gira and the Young God Records lot – the eccentric quartet has tried desperately to shake it off. From glockenspiels and bursts of white noise, to collaborating with maverick percussionist Hamid Drake, they'll try anything to make their music a little harder to pigeonhole.
Like their name (they’re not from Akron; neither are they related), Akron/Family’s music relies heavily on deception, and Love Is Simple is an album which thrives on shattering expectations. They’re the sort of band who let thunderous, psychedelic rock break down into a smug evangelical hum, and feeble drum machines mimic campfire chants.
In the space of a minute, the Family can go from sounding like gawky farmhands to stewards of the apocalypse. They’re happy to begin songs the way others might end their gigs – in a conflict of feedback and convulsive percussion. And then there are the noisy crescendos; so deformed and ragged you’re sure they carry back-masked messages.
It’s a quirky and enjoyable album, but one let down by an over-enthusiasm to shock and surprise. Akron/Family would score higher if they concentrated less on dissolving genres, and more on making music.