Akron Family

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Akron/Family (2005), 7/10
Akron/Family & Angels Of Light (2005), 6/10
Love Is Simple (2007), 6.5/10
Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free (2009), 5/10
II - The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (2011), 6/10

New York's folk/psychedelic quartet Akron/Family debuted with Akron/Family (Young God, 2005), an album of soundscape-oriented instrumental background music for warbling surreal elegies and litanies of metaphysical loss. Before and Again is mostly hummed against a backdrop of noises and anemic guitar strumming. Running Returning sounds like a pastoral lullaby torn between zombie-esque vocal harmonies and gently jangling guitars. Another "rustic" number, the languid Afford floats in a swamp of howling guitars and natural sounds. Shoes sounds like a psychedelic singalong, slowly decaying into a chaotic jam. Lumen, that opened with some chaotic atonal chamber music and ghostly reverberations, evolves into the most robust rant. But then Sorrow Boy seems to mimick orchestral pop and David Bowie's pathetic melodramas. Their touching Part of Corey and I'll Be on the Water showed how the post-rock aesthetic could be applied to Sufjan Stevens-like folk-rock melody. The eight-minute Italy is an exercise in rubber-band aerodynamics, a lengthy slumber slowly accruing tension that is eventually released in a fit of grandeur. Bubbling little noises disturb the flow of the song, a flow that is often interrupted and casually restarted as if to deny the unity of melody and arrangement that songs traditionally rely on. There is always something angular and uncertain surfacing from the apparent simplicity of the song.

The split album Akron/Family & Angels Of Light (Young God, 2005) continued the experiment of Angels Of Light's Sing Other People: Michael Gira backed by Akron/Family. The first seven tracks are by the band without Gira, and craft a grandiose and energetic sound (Moment, the eight-minute Future Myth, the gospel-y Raising the Sparks).

The seven-song EP Meek Warrior (Young God, 2006) offers a hodge-podge of different kinds of tantalizing music, from ballads (Gone Beyond) to complex post-rock scores (Blessing Force, The Rider).

Generally speaking, Love Is Simple (Young God, 2007) acknowledged their debts to the Sixties in a more explicit manner. The core of the album is represented by the four mini-suites. Ed Is A Portal begins with a massive singalong over pow-wow rhythm, but then turns into a rollicking country litany with space synthesizers and theatrical choirs. Lake Song is a good example of how the Family can string together a few random ideas and generate tribal/choral emphasis until it sounds like some exotic primitive ceremony. Disguised inside Of All The Things is a hippie litany with a Neil Young-ian guitar solo. Coherence is not exactly the overarching theme of these suites. There's So Many Colors begins with a festive horns-driven folk fanfare but ends in a Neil Young-ian guitar jam.
In between the band drops a few comic interludes, such as the Frank Zappa-esque I've Got Some Friends, and psychedelic ditties, notably Pony's O.G., with a free-jazz instrumental bacchanal.
Compared with the first album, this is a more conceptual affair, of grander proportions, that develops the ideas of tribal and choral post-hippie music. The hare-krishna hymns of the Sixties have become existential rituals.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Nicola Mecca)

Il quartetto folk-psichedelico newyorchese Akron/Family debutta con Akron/Family (Young God, 2005), un album di musica quasi da sottofondo per elegie surreali e litanie di perdita metafisica. Before and Again è mormorato contro un fondale di rumori e chitarre anemiche. Running Returning suona come una ninnananna pastorale divisa tra armonie vocali da zombie e chitarre scintillanti. Un altro numero “rustico”, la languida Afford, fluttua in una palude di chitarre urlanti e rumori naturali. Shoes è una canzone psichedelica che scivola lentamente verso una jam caotica. Lumen, che comincia con della musica da camera atonale e riverberazioni spettrali, evolve in  un energico farneticamento. Sorrow Boy sembra scimmiottare il pop orchestrale e i melodrammi patetici di David Bowie. Le toccanti Part of the Corey e I’ll be on the water mostrano come l’estetica post-rock possa essere applicata ad una melodia folk rock alla Sufjan Stevens. Italy, da otto minuti, è un esercizio di aerodinamica elastica, un lungo assopimento che accumula pian piano tensione, fino alla finale esplosione di magnificenza. Piccoli rumori disturbano lo scorrere della canzone, un flusso che è spesso interrotto e riavviato casualmente, come a negare l’unità di melodia e arrangiamento su cui le canzoni si poggiano tradizionalmente. C’è sempre qualcosa di spigoloso e di incerto che emerge dalla apparente semplicità della canzone.


Lo split album Akron/Family & Angels Of Light (Young God, 2005) continua l’esperimento di Sing Other People degli Angels Of Light: Michael Gira accompagnato dagli Akron/Family. Le prime sette trace sono della band senza Gira, e riescono a costruire un sound grandioso e potente (Moment, Future Myth, da otto minuti, il gospel Raising the Sparks)


L’EP da sette canzoni Meek Warrior (Young God, 2006) propone un miscuglio di tipi diversi di musica invitante, dalle ballad (Gone Beyond) a complessi numeri post-rock (Blessing Force, The Rider)


Love Is Simple (Young God, 2007) paga i debiti agli anni ’60 in una maniera più esplicita. Il cuore dell’album è rappresentato da quattro mini-suite. Ed is a Portal comincia con una filastrocca su un ritmo da cerimonia rituale, ma poi si trasforma in una spensierata litania country con synth spaziali e cori da teatro. Lake Song è un buon esempio di come i Family possano mettere insieme un po’ di idee sparse e generare enfasi tribale finché suoni come una cerimonia esotica primitiva. Of All The Things è una litania hippie con un solo di chitarra alla Neil Young. La coerenza non è esattamente il trait d’union delle suites. There’s so Many Colors comincia con una fanfara da banda ma finisce in una jam chitarristica alla Neil Young.

Nel mezzo la band si cimenta in interludi comici, come la Zappiana I’ve Got Some Friends, e canti rustici psichedelici, come Pony’s O.G., con un baccanale free-jazz.

Rispetto al primo album, questo è molto più concettuale. Di proporzioni maggiori, sviluppa le idee della musica post-hippie tribale e corale. Gli inni hare-krishna degli anni ’60 sono divenuti ormai rituali esistenziali.

After the departure of Ryan Vanderhoof, the remaining trio (Seth Olinsky, Miles Seaton, and Dana Janssen) penned the baroque, eccentric and varied Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free (Dead Oceans, 2009). Two constructions stand out, the opening jam Everyone Is Guilty and Gravelly Mountains of the Moon, but most of the rest is style for the sake of style that only occasionally (Sun Will Shine) is also moving. The gently catchy Many Ghosts and Set `Em Free provide ammunitions for a more mainstream career. Their youthful psychedelia was suddenly a distant memory.

The core of II - The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (2011) is made up of elegant vignettes of another dimension, peaking with the viscerally evocative closer Creator. Different facets of mysticism surface in the shamanic chant and dance of Silly Bears, in the dreamy meditation of Islands and in the supernatural vision of Another Sky. Throughout the album there is manic attention to the chromatic values of sound (including sounds of nature), sophisticated ambience and virtuoso dynamics. Melodies have never been their forte, but the garage anthem So It Goes, the solemn ballad Canopy and the acid-folk litany Cast a Net redefine the context of melody in purely spiritual terms.

Miles Seaton died in 2021.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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