“Hey, you noticed? Eveyone is crazy!“. I’m not sure there’s a better way to discuss this album than start with this line from “I’ve Got Some Friends”, one of the many folk-tinged-psychedelic songs that appear on Love Is Simple, their third album. They’ve always had an ear for the more obscure side of musical development and this album is no different, though it sees the number of ideas crammed into one album slightly down on last years meandering opus Meek Warrior. Whether you think these guys are “crazy” are not will depend entirely on whether you like your songs straight or with a twist. You can never second guess where Akron/Family are going to take you, but as long as you hold their hand, you won’t get lost.
We’ll start with the psychedelic folk of “Ed Is A Portal”. Seven minutes of tribal chants, chunky banjos, electro-breakdowns and hippy values. It feels like three songs squeezed into one. Just when you think you’ve got to grips with the chants and fuzzed vocals, it changes direction. It’s a magnificent piece of work and one that pretty much sums up Akron/Family as a whole. It’s obvious why Michael Gira (aka Angels of Light) uses these guys as his backing band – they share his same cosmic vision of music. They can also completely wrong foot you. The album actually starts with “Love, Love , Love (Everyone)” which could be a new hippy anthem. It’s simple acoustic guitar compliments the simple words that echo the simple themes, but put so plainly it’s beautitful; “Go out and love, love, love (everyone)“. It’s proof that they don’t need to embelish everything they do with layers upon layers of ideas and musical themes. Another standout track is “Lake Song / New Ceremonial Music For Moms” which apes 70′s folk masterpieces of the Fairpoint Convention at the beginning but descends into something altogether more involving. There’s the occassional buzz of guitar that hints of a more rock approach, but it’s spanish guitar flourishes around the simple, but obvioussly tibal, rhythms become picked apart as it descends into a wall of chants and sinister vocals. It’s not world music, but worldly music. Tapping into hopes, fears and dreams that everyone has no matter where they are in the world.
The majesty of all the tracks can get a bit dauting over the entire albums. The middle section contains tracks that all pass the five minute mark without blinking. But at least the music contined within these songs is relatively straight forward. The themes of love and family pervail all the tracks. The use of chanting and tribal rhythms just serves to cement the fact that we’re all part of one global family. Yes, it might by the hippy ideal and this is by far the most hippy-tastic album I’ve listened to all year - Devendra Banhart has got nothing on these guys. “There’s So Many Colours” is as close to early 70′s prog as we’re going to get without developing a time machine. The folk tinged madness of early, Pete Gabriel era Genesis, Yes meandering guitar solos and Barrett era Floyd vocals and songwriting. The fact that it’s over eight minutes just compounds it.
There’s a couple of times they miss the mark however. The playful “Phenomena” is another slice of prog-rock, but it feels a little out of place, the whirring electric guitars spoil the delicate vocals and acoustic guitar intro. The experienmental jazz intro to “Of All The Things” might not have sounded out of place on Battles Mirrored; bouncing rhythms and quirky guitar solos. But it’s underlying musicality is, once again, more Worldy than electronic and it’s off-kilter delivery just sounds a touch strained.
What you’re going to think about this album will be influenced by whether you’ve read this far without giving up. If this mad and crazy infusion of the hippy dream and tribal rythms has you intrigued, then you’re going to have to give this a listen. If you’ve been put off by my description, then it’s best to stay away. I, however, have been completely mesmerised by this meandering opus of a record.