While the title may not have much to do with the album’s content, the album and its name do have something in common; they both synthesize a series of disparate, weird concepts into something that sounds awesome.
Because they are an experimental folk band, comparisons between Akron/Family and Animal Collective are almost inevitable. Though the two bands do share certain musical sensibilities, (among other things, they both have vocalists with delivery styles heavy on pitch bending) Akron/Family adds enough pure rock elements to their sound to distinguish themselves from the competition.
On this album, Akron/Family is better described as experimental rock since they rely quite a bit more on multilayer guitar riffs and solos, expertly mixed with pounding, tribal drum beats and occasional churning, distorted noises.
Each track (even the slower, relatively sparse ones) is a collage of hundreds of little musical threads. By itself, one thread might seem overly familiar, but the way one plays off the others makes the sound incredibly unique while still retaining listener accessibility.
A good example of this comes near the end of the second song, “Island,” in which lead singer Seth Olinsky begins to croon the line “The girl from Mexico” a number of times. It’s a riff that doesn’t break any new ground and by itself would easily fit in with most modern pop-rock love songs but the way it plays off the choir of voices in the background makes it one of the album’s most memorable points.
Another technique that Akron/Family employs is the use of dramatic dynamic shifts. Several times throughout the album, most notably for the chorus of “Another Sky,” the band slowly deconstructs their sound.
Thread by thread, they take apart each song until only one instrument (usually vocals or guitar) remains. They hold onto that for a very brief, very quiet respite, and then explode into a cacophony of sounds. They make sure to use this technique sparingly for fear of losing its impact, but when they pull it out, it remains surprisingly powerful.
Unfortunately, the album does begin to drag a little near the end. Beginning with “Fuji II (Single Pane),” the last three songs are a lot slower and a lot less developed. At first, it seems a welcome intermission from the constant, almost overwhelming sounds the rest of the album proudly flaunts, but it stays around for too long, and doesn’t build to anything greater. It is important that a band be able to include a variety of songs into an album (and it was important that they give the album this denouement), but they would’ve been better off spreading the slow songs out or perhaps trimming one or two of them from the end. That being said, this is the album’s only real disappointment.
Akron/Family’s newest release, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, may be clunkily named, but the music it contains is smooth and satisfying.
Akron/Family S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT Tracklisting:
- “Silly Bears”
- “A Aaa O a Way”
- “So It Goes”
- “Another Sky”
- “Light Emerges”
- “Cast a Net”
- “Tatsuya Neon Purple Walkby”
- “Fuji I (Global Dub)”
- “Say What You Want To”
- “Fuji II (Single Pane”