Freak folk destroyed

VOIR-Montreal Weekly | Steve Guimond

Akron/Family is a dense musical canvas that defies categorization

August 18th, 2005 New York's Akron/Family blow it out their live show Akron/Family convened in New York City in 2002 with the goal of making music. And make music they did. Three albums' worth of material was laid down, inspiration and desperation found in equal measure in their squalid surroundings. Miles Seaton - multi-instrumentalist and vocalist like other members Dana Janssen, Seth Olinsky and Ryan Vanderhoof - takes us back. "We were living in a place where it was totally miserable and brutally hot, with five people in this 800-square-foot open space, where there was dirt everywhere... The only thing that was at all rewarding and redeeming in our life at that moment was really pouring our heart into the music. There's a certain level of creating to save our lives that I think is contained in some of that stuff." Seaton is referring to Akron/Family's self-titled debut, released on Michael Gira's (Angels of Light, Swans) Young God Records in early 2005. Gira has been a pivotal figure, taking the band under his wide wings. "It's pretty incalculable, the impact he's had on us, just as far as being someone who's constantly in support of us and constantly being overwhelmingly generous," praises Seaton. "It's a really amazing relationship. Very much like a mentor... When we first e-mailed him about sending him material, even though he had this really sort of foreboding 'Do not send any unsolicited material' thing on his website, his response was just really nurturing, we just continued to send him material... I think after a while he was overwhelmed and decided to come see us." And the rest, as they say, is history. Akron/Family is a dense musical canvas that defies categorization, and has had critics and fans alike drooling over the otherworldly creations found within, moving beyond the borders of the "acoustic freak folk" tag the band has been dogged with. The songs are based around acoustic instruments, but are in turn "destroyed," as Seaton bluntly puts it. "A lot of it was really spontaneous. We were using an archaic sequencing program, we catalogued all these sounds, we recorded from all around the apartment, from outside, recording kids in the street, whatever we could find. And then we'd manipulate those sounds." In concert, those who caught their opening set for Gira's Angels here in April had both their minds and ears blown by the group's off-the-wall psychedelic choral presentation, a complete contrast to the eerie tones, electronic beeps and hushed centres found on the long-player. "That's one of the better things about us, that we do have this ability to work on very interesting and elaborate things in the studio, and then we're able to take that and have a different energy, and kind of blow the feeling out live," says Seaton. Thoughts were further bent that night as the four beardos joined Gira as his backing band, a feat also pulled off on the Angels' last record (...Sing Other People) and subsequent North American and European tours. A split release is due in October, as is more touring together following the upcoming Akron/Family headlining tour across this huge continent. Akron/Family And Great Lake Swimmers at Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent), Aug. 24