self-titled – Akron/Family
review by with Josh Welsh
Young God Records 28
Glockenspiel, melodica, accordion, fruity computer twiddling and
orchestral sentiments. The four-piece Akron/Family is not content with
just playing guitar, bass, organ, and drums on their self-titled album
on Young God Records. No, that would not do. How can you accompany the
effected, forced vocals with anything other than a Schroder-sounding toy
piano? Or maybe some random bric-a-brac? The trick in using sounds not
entirely one's own as part of one's music is to not let it be a crutch.
If it is executed well, it can be the final piece of enhancement that is
needed, much like how Radiohead and Wilco skillfully crafted ambient and
atmospheric accompaniment at the turn of the century.
outside their padding, Akron/Family does not hold enough instrumental
command to stand on two feet. There are bands that are successful in
making this their entire forte. Yet, in doing so, one needs to achieve a
sense of owning the sound. On this album, guitar, strings, trumpet, and
banjo seem as though they just met a pack of foreigners outside the
studio armed with things that clank and scratch to make interesting
noises. Bryce Goggin, known for working with Phish, Pavement, John Zorn,
and Marc Ribot, mixed this album — but when he is not given much to
mix, it is difficult to tell.
Since all music needs to be categorized, and music that you cannot
pigeon-hole immediately needs to create its own sound, Akron/Family
could be described as "found-object folk." They loosely tie together
ethereal lyrics with random notes and sounds. And while it could be a
fun and exciting experiment, waiting to see what the artists come up
with, this album leaves the listener searching. There is just too much
looseness, it seems.
Bands like Grandaddy and Guided By Voices place
just enough hooks throughout their albums to keep the listener
interested, anticipating the next little gem. With Akron/Family, you
never find the game and you are left with only the objects tying the
album together. Because of the pace of the album, the listener simply
keeps waiting for that crescendo, and that does not happen until track
11 ("Lumen"). On the way, some actual songs appear ("Sorrow Boy" and
"Shoes"). Yet, even by then, the album does not peak into anything more
than a warmup jog.