For someone who prefers their music to be released by sun-shy, ultra-prolific recluses, Akron/Family is perhaps a bit too brash and playful for my tastes. So naturally I connected more with their music back in the days where they acted as backing band for Michael Gira’s Angels of Light; they could be lively and bizarre even then, but the band’s tendency to experiment and roam between genres took them into them into some darker, more dissonant freak-outs, rather than the elated, “everyone join in” vibe that much of this new album provokes. It’s by no means a criticism of the band – even for a fussier listener such as myself, there’s still much to be appreciated and admired here.
The band don’t zone out so much like they used to; rather, they’re forever on their toes, ready to drop their instrument for another one, nudge the track into an expected direction, or provide one of the album’s many, many yelping, “oohing”, “aahing” vocal harmonies. There’s almost a child-like quality to their creative impatience, as the band run this way and that and splatter the sonic canvas with every variety of colour and shape, overloaded with ideas and open to anything. But rock music is always at the core here – the record is organic, lively, guitar-based – and it’s this which seems to provide Akron/Family with a basis on which to offload their hyperactive ideas.
One thing’s for sure. S/T II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT has an excellent dynamic – “Silly Bears” gallops joyously into the synth strings and tom drum heartbeat of “Island”, which in turn drops into the mellow bass and vocal harmonies of “A AAA O A WAY”, rising up from this point and surging through “So It Goes” to peak at the energy rush of “Another Sky”…and so it continues. In terms of the album’s overall structure, Akron/Family time every dip and twist brilliantly, aware of when their audience may crave the all-out celebrative climaxes, and when to tone it down and provide the listener with some breathing space.
The band seem to gently ease the experience to a close with the last three tracks, slumped back and spent from pouring all their energy into the tracks previous. They’re surprisingly somber pieces considering the mood of the rest of the release, but it works as a contrast – a point of reflection after the care-free exhilaration indulged in for much of S/T II.