The reason the chief of Young God Records both added Akron Family to his esteemed label's roster and employed them as the backing band on his latest tour and recording session under the Angels of Light guise is simplicity itself. To Michael Gira's ears, they're the greatest band around. It's not mere hype-generating babble aimed at boosting a little-known band's profile either, as chances are that at the end of this split album you're inclined to share his assessment, such is the all-conquering charm of this generously hirsute outfit.
At its core, the band's sound is pretty standard odd/new/psych-folk fare, as demonstrated in a dazzling fashion on the acoustic strumming and four-part harmonies of the opener 'Awake' and the narcoleptic breeze of 'Oceanside'. Anyone expecting the Brooklyn-based four-piece's arsenal to be limited to formulaic campfire singalongs, however, is in for a shock with the shrieking flurry of feedback at the onset â€˜Momentâ€™, a sizzling slice of lopsided rock 'n' roll complete with loose but tight Led Zep-ish guitar breaks and a magnificent mantra-rock coda. 'Future Myths' is even better, a sprawling epic that could be Jane's Addiction at their most joyously expansive - had the late quartet ever substituted the lure of LA with a spell of "getting it together in the country", late 60's style, that is.
For a band who audibly revel in spontaneous, collapse-courting experimentation, sudden shifts in mood and tempo and throwing each available ingredient to the mix - for reference, check 'We All Will', which somehow avoids losing the plot whilst drifting from a fragile, xylophone and harmonium-powered intro not far removed from Sigur Ros at their most subdued to earthy, twangy country rock harmonies via a few verses of a sozzled sea shanty - the results are remarkably infectious and concise; consistently enchanting, warm and rich in detail rather than annoyingly unfocused and undercooked.
"Found what you're looking for," they croon chorally on 'Dylan, Pt. 2', moments before the slo-mo hymn melts to a feast of fretboard fireworks. They might well be predicting just how enthusiastic fans of Black Mountain, Dungen and other prime purveyors of imaginative and fresh takes on familiar 'classic rock' templates will feel by the time they get to the end of 'Raising The Sparks', which further expands the band's admirably wide scope with a storming, chant-fuelled stomp that elevates Arcade Fire's euphoric lift-off to excitement levels approaching full-blown hysterics, and with it the Akron Family-hosted part of the album.
Fronted by Michael Gira in a lower-register voice resembling Iggy Pop, were the Stooge supreme ever to catch the crooning bug, the five Angels of Light tracks that follow can't quite match such a virtuoso display of head-on invention and majestic songwriting muscle. There's plenty to savour here, though, not least the chance to hear Akron Family rein in their genre-hopping tendencies to offer a suitably sparse backing to this stark set of songs that could well originate from the same desolate district as the dustblown gems on Mark Lanegan's Field Songs.