Akron/Family | Review

Yorkshire Evening Post | Janne Oinonen

The band's psychedelic outer space Americana bridges substantial songwriting with fluid free-form improvisation and dense arrangements


The band on stage, most of whom resemble post-grad music students after a month or two aboard the Grateful Dead tour bus, are seated and crouched over their instruments in deep concentration. You'd expect the resulting racket to reside in the neighborhood of noodle-infested jazz odysseys. Instead, they're unleashing Moment, a sprawling, muscular wig-out with liberal sprinklings of shrieking discord that could originate from on of Led Zeppelin's funkier moments, had the metal mammoths dosed their brash brand of swagger with the disorientating ingredients of the furthest-out psychedelia. 

The sedate seating arrangements are just one of the ways with which Akron/Family defy expectations. In fact, the New York four-piece are so consistently innovative and successful in flaunting the commonplace and the conventional you'd think they were responsible for nicking all the ideas from a host of vapid bands currently suffering from very public bouts of originality deficiency. Rather than yielding to compromises in choosing which of the members' individual tastes are catered for in the band's output, Akron/Family tackle each source of inspiration; jazz, folk, country, classic rock, outer limits experimentation;with equal skill and conviction, often within a single song. In less capable hands the outcome might be an unbearably self-indulgent mess, but here the resulting heady brew frequently borders on the magical. 

The band's psychedelic outer space Americana bridges substantial songwriting with fluid free-form improvisation and dense arrangements, which leap from finger-picked fragility and soaring four-part harmonies to full-blown skronk mode in a blink of an eye, so seamlessly and with such impeccable logic it's hard to notice just how unusual the stylistics couplings in the band's stuffing songs, such as the otherworldly opener Suchness, which floats from its wonky funhouse mirror reflection of Appalachian folk music foundations into a glacially majestic coda Sigur Ros might want to hijack to Iceland with effortless ease, really are. 

What is easier to spot is the electrifying elation these four-multi-instrumentalists; kazoo, harmonica, xylophone, recorder, an array of percussion and analog drone generators feature alongside the traditional guitars, drums and bass; generate. As unfashionable as such musty notions are is in an era thoroughly saturated in cool posturing, Akron/Family sincerely seek to create a communal atmosphere with their audience. If their efforts to connect with the slim but appreciative Sunday night crowd fail to come extent, and there are disappointingly few takers for the invitation to join in on the handclapping hoedown that catapults the near-manically gleeful closer Raising The Sparks to even loftier levels of stomping revival tent fervour, the post-gig rush at the CD table indicates that Akron/Family might soon have to adjust to conjuring that special sense of togetherness amidst vastly more substantial headcounts.