Akron/Family - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT (Dead Oceans)

15 Mar 2011

“An illustration of a great album is the speed in which it seems to fly by, and the size of the resulting smile on your face at the end.  For me?  This was lightning quick, and the grin is massive...”; release – 2011


“We have no idea what it means” was Akron/Family’s assessment of the title of what is in all, counting collaborations, their fifth studio album to date. Their pleading ignorance aside, the fantasy-like title does set the scene for what is their most forward thinking album to date, an album that uses simple musical roots but feeds them with organic sounds and electronic experimentation that allows it them to blossom into something far more vast. 

There’s the joy of discovery on display in the way that Akron/Family forge their sound and adjoin their lyrics. ‘Silly Bears’ is a perfect example of this, the simple story of one bear wondering where the other has got his “damned tasty” honey from – the bear with the honey happily obliges and explains where to go. Interpretations are of course up for grabs, but this childish enthusiasm and wonderment coupled with the striking full sound from the distorted base, euphoric organ and inspiring guitar riff adds up to a compelling opener.

This innocence is a common theme throughout, displayed again quite vividly in ‘Light Emerges’ as the xylophone sets up crashing guitar stabs and squeals as tribal drums bounce around in the background. There’s a childlike nostalgia in the lyrics talking of fire flies in jars and playing with garden worms.  

Another striking element to the album is the uplifting nature and relaxation created even though there are some really quite unfamiliar sounds created with elements of noise rock, psychadelica, blues, folk and euphoria all thrown in to the mix (see ‘A AAA O A WAY’ for a prime example). This stretches from the beautifully ambient paradisiacal  ‘Island’ that is coated in slow tribal drums, circulating synth and caressing guitar, to the almost Black Keys like riffs of the carefree ‘So it Goes’ accompanied again by some quite amusing lyrics. 

‘Another Sky’ in essence sums up these sentiments with the messy punk guitars evoking feeling of triumphing over adversary, and being able to keep going even when things go wrong, “we can’t deny the fear that grows of being swallowed whole, we will row to sunny shores and start again, beneath another sky.” 

Nature and an obvious appreciation of the world around features heavily as organic sounds are used to allow the album to flow freely from start to finish. In some instances merging tunes so deftly that you have no idea that you’ve moved on to another track. The Japanese blues rock of ‘Fuji I (Global Dub)’ finishes with volcanic bubbling of magma while ‘Fuji II (Single plane)’ uses the soothing sound of rain and the chitter chatter of children to create a synth aided encompassing sound. In other areas jungle/forestry sounds are used to set a peaceful mood allowing the tune to flow forth from it.

It’s very easy to compare them to the likes of The Mae Shi or Animal Collective, but there is certainly a uniqueness to the way Akron/Family have approached this album. Although there are glimpses of more folk orientated roots in tunes, like ‘Cast A Net’ or in the use of pedal steel guitars, the whole sound has taken a leap towards the stratosphere in a unique twist that not only uplifts and exhilarates, but soothes and reassures. The album has a superb flow with tracks intrinsically linked in what at times seems to just be a band enjoying the freedom of improvisation. An illustration of a great album is the speed in which it seems to fly by, and the size of the resulting smile on your face at the end.  For me?  This was lightning quick, and the grin is massive.


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