Release Date: Apr 30, 2013
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Folk
It's been two years since Akron/Family released the monolithic Akron/Family II (The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT), an album that featured no less than five different "leaked" (by the band) mixes before it was formally released. Though the gorgeous cover art on Sub Verses is by Stephen O'Malley, the band claims it was influenced by the mystical interior paintings of James Turrell and the massive masculine landscape art of Michael Heizer. In terms of sonics, textures, the elemental use of space, and density in and around the music, that makes perfect sense.
I could say a hell of a lot about the sound of Akron/Family but it could never quite match up to the words of Swans’ Michael Gira about his occasional backing band: “There are no inverted commas in the world of AK. They’re inside the music, grinding it, fighting it, chewing it, digesting it, then spewing it up to the sky in a multicoloured spray of endless sound and love.” Sounds good to me, Michael. Since 2002 Akron/Family – Dana Janssen, Seth Olinsky and Miles Seaton – have rocked and rolled their way through five albums (six if you count their release with Angels of Light) of pastoral folk, psych rock, experimentation with found sounds, tribal rhythms, pure harmonies and much, much more.
Depending on when you got into the indie rock game, Akron/Family is either upstart or institution. Unlike mid-decade peers like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, they haven't abandoned their urban hippie aura, nor have they moved on to the larger amphitheatres. But they've picked up a few tricks, chief among them a fondness for big, riff-driven rock songs.
Akron/FamilySub Verses[Dead Oceans; 2013]By Leslie Fernandez; May 3, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetAkron/Family's follow up to 2011's eccentrically named S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT may not have 6 different mixes floating around like that one did, but it's still experimental and unorthodox enough to satisfy any of their veteran fans. Sub Verses, like much of Akron/Family's discography, is defined by its inspirations. What makes it interesting is just how disparate those inspirations can be and the uncanny combinations that result.
It’s been quite a transformation from Akron/Family’s first, eponymous record. Since then, they’ve mostly left that quiet definition of themselves behind for louder, more unruly meditations. Their last two records in particular, Set ‘em Wild, Set ‘em Free and S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, were about exploration, staking out new ground, finding far-off borders and breaking them down.
Experimental psychedelic folk band Akron/Family have consistently released pretty good music over the past decade, but perhaps their finest moment came in collaboration with another band’s finest moment, that band being Michael Gira’s post/pre-Swans collective Angels Of Light. Since 2005’s excellent, self-titled collaborative LP between Akron/Family and Angels Of Light, however, Gira has reunited Swans and Akron/Family has become noticeably less dark. After Swans’ mammoth The Seer dropped last year, it seems as though everyone, from bands who have collaborated with Swans, like Low, to bands who you would never associate with Swans, like The Knife, have ventured into Swans-like territory of terrifying ambient noise in conjunction with non-standard pop track lengths.
Though they’d started making waves with woodsy harmonies and fungi-induced trippiness, Akron/Family explored their depths on 2011’s volcano-written, dinosaur-diorama featuring S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT. With their seventh studio album, Sub Verses, the trio continue on that trajectory, the mystic chanting and ceremonial trances dancing through the scattering ash. Due to that cratered impact, everything on the album sounds urgent, an exhilarating feeling that takes a while to escape.
For a band that once titled an album Love Is Simple, Akron/Family has a knack for making things complicated. While there’s a surface level thematic simplicity to the band’s output—nature, freedom and community are obviously important to these dudes—the music they make and the stories surrounding that music are often willfully obtuse. Even the name is confusing.
Akron/Family have been melting brains for a good few years now, their number increasing and decreasing from one album to the next, their individual roles never defined. New album ‘Sub Verses’ is a zig-zag of songs, one moment noise-rock delirium, the next cosy, hazy, beachy folk. There is no nod to consistency or predictability, itself pleasingly consistent with their reputation.Opener ‘No-Room’ moves from soothingly minimal acoustic electronica, and ends up a full-blown, multi-layered rock song.
There's something about the hike in temperature and sunshine of spring that conjures an imagery of running barefoot across a large expanse of grassy hills. If there was a montage of that scene captured from an aerial view, Akron/Family's Sub Verses would be the soundtrack. On their followup to 2011's Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, the group takes on some demanding riffs and harmonies with a record comprised of what sounds like giant opus after giant opus.