AKRON/FAMILY: MEEK WARRIOR (2006)
1) Blessing Force; 2) Gone Beyond; 3) Meek Warrior; 4) No Space In This Realm; 5) The Lightning Bolt Of Compassion; 6) The Rider (Dolphin Song); 7) Love And Space.
Third time around and these guys still haven't properly explained the nature of their mission on this planet. However, the transition from second album to third is already less jarring than the one before that. By now we know fairly well that Akron/Family like folk music, free-form jazz, and psychedelic sounds, and that the combination of all three of these elements in unpredictable ways is what sets them apart from potential competition. So, Meek Warrior is the first record that we can safely call «generic Akron/Family» and view as a stabilization of sorts.
The record is a collaboration with jazz percussionist Hamid Drake, whose skill is supposedly much admired by the band, and this prompts them to rise to the instrumental and artistic challenge: 'Blessing Force', opening the album, is a colorful nine-minute melange of everything that could ever matter, from wild tribal drumming to wilder tribal chanting to blues-rock jamming to raga to, finally, total chaos and more Dolphy-style catastrophic dissonance. Unfortunately, there is simply not enough motivation. The trick, as usual, is in how well and for what purpose these individual parts shift into one another — and if the «how well» part is nothing to fear about, the «for what purpose» part rests unanswered. Much the same applies to the record's second lengthy track as well ('The Rider').
Annoying and frustrating — behind all these gimmicks, all of the time, there hides a perfectly decent folk-rock outfit with potential, prowess, and feeling. They prefer to realize this potential through repetitive mantras, but when they are not being repetitive for the sake of shocking (e. g. a looped acappella chanting of "love and space, love and space"), these are good, sensitive mantras — 'Gone Beyond', which slowly and steadily does weave out a feeling of "going completely beyond"; 'The Lightning Bolt Of Compassion', sung dreamily and romantically in a pseudo-language probably made up on the spot; 'Love And Space', almost insulting to the «typical A/F fan» in its gospel-folk straightforwardness, that is, until that silly acappella loop begins.
In fact, even if that would have technically been just another gimmick, not to mention adding a serious threat of dying from monotonosis, I would have preferred an entire album of such mantras instead of these alternations with dissonant jazz and tribal howling. Akron/Family seem to be at their best when they're quietly picking the acoustic and humming along, not when they're trying to show some muscle — «Meek Warriors» indeed; sure wish that title would have been more justified. As it is, the album is uneven. A bunch of well-meaning, not-untalented lads caught up in the pointless progressive drives of the XXIst century. A sad, but avoidable, fate.
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