As both opening act and live back-up band for his current Angels of Light tour, Michael Gira has enlisted the help of Akron/Family, the newest signers to his label, Young God Records. Seated in folding chairs and looking like Appalachian mountain men gone hippy, Akron/Family played a mixture of extended, noisy jam sessions and rambling, complicated song structures that was by turns fascinating and exhausting. After over an hour of this, the latter won out. Whether or not you go for Akron/Family’s brand of improvisational psychedelic weirdness, however, it’s plain to see that not only do they love what they do, they’re actually quite good musicians. This was fortunate, because the current incarnation of the Angels of Light is essentially the same band, but with Gira at the front, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing his own songs. In a live setting, this brought mixed results. Akron/Family’s yelping exuberance did add to the overall creepiness of “Michael’s White Hands” and “My Sister Said,” and the country-flavored slide playing during “On the Mountain” set the perfect tone for Gira’s musical elegy to Johnny Cash. On the other hand, over-enthusiastic guitar soloing ruined Gira’s beautiful contrast of soft sounds and hard words on “Destroyer”. To finish the set, Gira played a stark but emotionally stripped version of “Blind,” which originally appeared on his first official solo album. The singer’s cracking baritone and lyrics of self-disappointment ended things on the perfect note, reminding fans who might not understand or enjoy the direction of his newer work why they began listening to his songs in the first place.
For more information on either band, visit www.younggodrecords.com.