Special low price album features VERY SPECIAL GUEST HAMID DRAKE, as well as contributions from members of Do Make Say Think and Broken Social Scene….
Since the debut Akron/Family album came out in March ’05 they’ve played hundreds (and hundreds) of shows across the known world, recorded / released and toured for a split album with Angels of Light (also serving as backing band in the latter, both in studio and on tour), recorded a few home brewed albums they sell on the road, and have generally worked themselves to death, or at least into a new entity they themselves maybe don’t even recognize. And now this: a new “special” album that has been blaring in my office constantly, obsessively, for weeks now and that once again shows them morphing into something simultaneously unfamiliar, wild, gentle, raging, hilarious, elated and meditative - riddled with chaos and sonic contradiction, and sometimes just simply beautiful – the song “Gone Beyond” is the sort of palliative hymn I want to hear while suddenly finding myself drifting through the universe having unexpectedly jettisoned the meat-grinder of earthly existence - where perhaps songs like “Blessing Force” , played repeatedly at full volume, have pummeled me into hapless insensibility. All of this ultimately gets sorted out and makes for a stunning document, in my opinion. At the time of this writing they’re ensconced in the mountains somewhere on a much-needed recuperative retreat. Good thing, because this fall and winter they’ll be touring again and also recording another new album for YGR, to be released early next year, when they’ll tour again, and on to infinity… I hope you enjoy the music!
- Michael Gira/Young God Records, 2006
Here’s what Seth has to say about making this recording: “These songs were written about a year ago by individual band members and then hashed out as a band together on the road in hotels and in the van the few weeks prior to the studio time in Chicago, while we were all freezing in the winter hinterlands of Canada, wheezing with bronchitis…The recording in Chicago was nuts. We played in Iowa City Monday night. Then drove all that night, slept 2 hours on the corner of 23rd and Michigan in Chicago outside the studio in the van. Then started setting up to record at 10:00 am and recorded until 8:00 pm. Then we headed straight to Urbana Illinois to play that same night. Then drove back to Chicago that same night after the show, started recording that next morning at 10:00 am, recorded all day again, and then left again at 8;00 pm to play that same night in Milwaukee. It was extremely crazy, and I can't remember if we have ever been more disoriented and tired before…We recorded at Shape Shoppe in Chicago and it was engineered by Griffin Rodriguez…Griffin also plays upright bass on track 4, no Space in this realm…The big emphasis on doing this recording was the chance to record two days in Chicago with our favorite free jazz master drummer Hamid Drake. He has played on hundreds of records with jazz luminaries Peter Brotzmann, Don Cherry, Pharaoh Sanders, William Parker, Mats Gustafsson, Ken Vandermark - the list goes on … We did an additional day of recording with theDo Make Say Think/ Broken Social Scene guys in Toronto, two days with Jason La Farge at Seizure’s Palace in Brooklyn, and countless mind droning moments in my (Seth's) apartment. Mixed and mastered with Doug Henderson. Production was Akron/Family and Michael Gira. We recorded ourselves in Chicago and then a day in Toronto, and then we went back to NY and did two more studio days and mixing with Michael.”
Some reviews of Meek Warrior (more press) :
Album: Meek Warrior
Label: Young God
Review date: Sep. 15, 2006
If rock is a school, the four members of Akron/Family are its most dramatic, most academically gifted spaz-outs. They are fluent in the vocabularies of rock, folk, soul and jazz, and can ask for directions in punk and metal. And, as they prove on “Lightning Bolt of Compassion,” they don’t even have to sing their lyrics in English.
Let it never be said that they haven’t been fortunate. Few acts meet the world with instant nerd cred bestowed upon them by Swans legend and Young God Records bwana Michael Gira. Few debuts get the sort of attention, on the sort of scale, that A/F’s self-titled 2005 disc did – that is, sincere admiration and curiosity with a minimum of calculated hype. But Akron/Family does work hard, touring constantly, showing uncommon discipline in the studio, and serving as their mentor’s backup band. (Gira must be an unbelievably demanding producer, to say nothing of what he’s like as a bandleader.) Akron/Family has the sort of energy that less insanely committed musicians hate.
In a short couple of years, they’ve reached a point of mad productivity and dizzying musical complexity. Despite its scant 35-minute duration, Meek Warrior distills the entire history of experimental pop. Just as impressively, it finally bottles the frantic eclecticism and The Gods Must Be Crazy absurdity of the Family’s live show. The debut now sounds safe by comparison. It’s hard to imagine how this level of activity can be maintained, but there’s nothing here to suggest that the band is going to fuck up its many blessings.
For the roots crowd, Meek Warrior could be frustrating – it often sounds as though Akron/Family is getting paid by the idea. A long free-form freakout closes “Blessing Force,” which segues into the delicate s’more-toaster “Gone Beyond,” and then, before we can finish a sentence, we’re thigh-high in the soured gospel of “Meek Warrior.” It’s executed quite cleanly, but there’s a lot of stuff going on in a short amount of time. It’s a busy record. It’s out for attention.
Throw in a space fixation on loan from Sun Ra, and you’re dangerously close to prog territory. But Akron/Family is too festive to be prog. If pop were outlawed, these hypnotic incantations, psychedelic showtunes and cleansing instrumental interludes would still be pop.
With all this buildup, tension and release, the simple beauty of “Gone Beyond,” “Lightning Bolt of Compassion” and “Love and Space” soothes with the force of a rebooting. Now that they’re on the board, Akron/Family is exploring all its skills at once. It may yet find its limitations, but this is a highly adaptive organism – this level of maximalism might not hold beer forever, but there’s nothing to suggest A/F can’t do minimalism just as well.
LIVE REVIEW AKRON/FAMILY
Akron/Family and Sir Richard Bishop
(Tractor Tavern: Seattle, WA)
The Night of the Living Dopplegangers. I swear up and down I was stuck between folks who looked like Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Morrison, and Dee Dee Ramone--an odd trio to envision--but that's what a show billing Sir Richard Bishop and Akron/Family will bring.
I walked in just as Richard Bishop began his set. If you've never seen Bishop work his magic, then you'd be in for a real treat. This is another in a long line of classic Bishop performances. The man is able to make one guitar sound like an army of them (take that, Broken Social Scene!) with little effort. Watching his fingers move so nimbly across the frets becomes mesmerizing. There are times when you forget about the actual music being produced and just focus on figuring out his tricks. Once you do snap out of the trance and listen to the sound, you're blown away by how Bishop is able to switch from the gritty sounds of the OK Corral to a playful cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," before launching into a 15 minute collision of quiet tones meeting deafening strums. He had the crowd by the ear, and those who didn't know him beforehand would never be able to forget him.
As Akron/Family began setting up for their whirlwind performance, I listened in on the crowd. Many seemed swayed to check out the band from an article written by The Stranger--one person even quoted it to the best of his memory. I got a chuckle because they were expecting some Dylanesque performance of folk rock that they would never get, though Akron/Family would tease them with "Awake." Many in the crowd were lulled into a false sense of calm and nostalgia while others waited with baited breath for the real surprises to begin. And the minute the band exploded into the frenzied beginning of "Moment," some eyes lit up as most faces tried to stop their jaws from dropping. No longer was the group behind me talking about “Dylan” and how beautiful the first song was. They were now in the midst of a fray, and not one of them knew what to do.
From then on out, it was a battle of attrition. It was Akron/Family versus convention, and the four Brooklynites were willing to pull out all the stops as the crowd quickly melted into their hands. Whatever the band wanted, they received. The band teased the crowd with haunting melodies and bone-jarring jams. They kept us on edge throughout the night, and no matter how jovial their conversations with the crowd were (even promising to bust out some CCR if we were good), everyone expected them to blow the roof off at any moment. We were hostages with friendly captors.
When the bird calls, slide whistles and harmonicas were unleashed to herald "Future Myth," the crowd was ready to spend their last amount of energy as the song devolved from a ruckus tune into a wall of distortion and tribal drum beats. As we all prepared for the big sendoff and a chance to catch our breath, one by one the band began to climb off the stage and congregate in the middle of crowd. Armed with a banjo, an acoustic guitar, and small percussives, the band launched into a beautiful sing-along, even getting the crowd to "drink the kool-aid." Soon the room swelled as everyone loudly sang "Love and space" on a loop. It's one of those rare moments when a band trusts its crowd and gives back the best way they know how. After the campfire moment, the boys gravitated towards another part of the room and tackled Neil Young's unappreciated "For the Turnstiles." The crowd was once again moved to participate, this time without the goading from the band. When they finally returned to the state for one last go, everyone left standing had been converted. No one left without a smile, and no one would ever forget what they had just witnessed. Akron/Family transcended the music and actually reached out to their audience with no hidden agenda or false pretense. In a musical world brimming with cynicism and criticism, it's nice to have bands like Akron/Family nurturing a heartfelt family mentality.