A few things have changed since The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly's release, not the least of which is the addition of four new members to Le Loup's lineup (Christian Ervin, Michael Ferguson, Robby Sahm, and Jim Thomson). What was once a spare, introspective solo project has turned into a lush, outgoing group effort, and it results in Le Loup's most fully realized, not to mention celebratory, work to date. Sophisticated but not stuffy, ambitious but rarely self-indulgent, Family offers an example of the stuff that can go right on a second release. Family features some of Le Loup's most pop-oriented work to date, especially on a track like "Beach Town" -- a haunting, gritty deconstruction of a surf song. This isn't to say that Le Loup have compromised their tendency to experiment on this album -- far from it. Like The Throne, Family is rich with bells and whistles -- there's a lot of textured looping, overdubbed vocals, distortion, and reverb. The main difference here is in Family's generous array of organic instruments, particularly in the form of hand drums, tambourines, bells, handclaps, and rattles. Granted, there are times when this makes the album feel like a night at the drum circle (particularly at the end of "Forgive Me"), but for the most part it adds a warmth and glimmer to Le Loup's sound that was missing in their earlier work. Much of Family has a prayerful feel to it; there's a lot of chanting, especially on "Go East" (which, between the choir-like vocals and banjo flourishes, sounds practically Sufjan Stevens-esque). All the chanting and the organic instrumentation give Family a suggestion of the esoteric 1960s; the album's opening track, "Saddle Mountain," has hints of the Incredible String Band and Pentangle. Family shows that Le Loup have really come into their own since the release of their 2007 debut.
© Margaret Reges /TiVo