Boston Phoenix | by TED DROZDOWSKI

blends acoustic string instruments with layers of electronic noise and vocal harmonies

These urban Okies from Brooklyn have created a kind of contemporary-primitive style that blends acoustic string instruments with layers of electronic noise and vocal harmonies. Their compositions reflect both the sweet, earthy influence of the Band and the textural applications of Ennio Morricone. And here they’ve written some evocative songs that, thanks to the high plaintive lead voice of Ryan Vanderhoof, tell stories of searching for self-realization, true love, and desire. Layers of sound slowly build as each number unreels. At the start of the epic "Italy," the only instruments are a lightly amplified electric guitar and the squeaky chair that Miles Seaton rocks back and forth to elicit just the right slow groan. Other guitars intervene as Vanderhoof begins to sing, and the song crescendos with a four-part vocal break, tinkling percussion, and minimal drumming that — in the Akron/Family’s quiet, spacy universe — sound like a volcano erupting. As they alternate between explorations of mountain-music roots and unpredictable yet entirely organic experimentation, it becomes obvious that these guys have made one of the more daring, free-ranging debuts of the year. Fans of Devendra Banhart and John Frusciante will dig Akron/Family’s abstraction; those who find Banhart too hippy-dippy will enjoy their more grounded musicality. Michael Gira, the former frontman of Swans and current Angels of Light leader who runs Young God Records, became so smitten with Akron’s approach that they’re now his backing band, so there’s a testimonial.