Akron/Family - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT

by Andy Brown Rating:9.5 Release Date:2011-02-15

Akron/Family are an eccentric bunch. I mean just look at that album title: S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT. The band themselves have confessed to having no idea what it means. Their music too is an eclectic, eccentric mix of sounds and textures, all carried off with a child-like enthusiasm for invention and experimentation. This is their second album for Dead Oceans after leaving Michael Gira's Young God Records a few years back. It was through Gira that they got their initial break. It wasn't the kind of thing you'd have suspected the Swans/Angels of Light front man to be listening to but it's a credit to his impeccable taste that Akron/Family were a superb discovery. If you've yet to have the pleasure of listening to Akron/Family than Cosmic Birth is yr chance to find out what you've been missing.

The album begins with the excitable thump of 'Silly Bears' with its twisted guitars and Animal Collective like fervour for joyful chanting. It's a decidedly silly track but an undeniably persuasive one - it immediately pulls you into Akron/Family's strange and unique world. 'Island' starts with ethereal sounds and gentle vocals and later adds sighing lap steel guitar as they sing about "the girl from Mexico". It's an enchanting piece of music. 'A AAA O A WAY' sounds like oompa loompas muttering to themselves before all the sounds drop out and we're left with clear vocals and fingers clicking as they sing, "I'm going to go away, away from here". 'So It Goes' starts with a crunchy guitar-riff and ends up sounding like a meatier Herman Dune mixed with The Beatles with lyrics about giving money to the homeless. It's bloody brilliant.

'Another Sky' begins with a Marnie Stern/Lightening Bolt style moment of shredding before it gallops away like Animal Collective at their most joyfully primitive. Akron/Family are well known for improvisation when they play live and you can imagine a lot of these compositions coming out of lengthy practices. So many of these tracks are full of crazy time signatures and unexpected twits and turns; they certainly keep your ears-on-their-toes, as it were. 'Light Emerges' has a lovely glockenspiel running through it and struts with a natural zeal and confidence. Akron/Family know what they're doing. They're making sense of the chaos, harnessing the untameable and connecting the dots that others just see as an unsalvageable mess.

It's not all madness, however. Next track, 'Cast a Net' is one of the albums most straightforward moments, a subtle folk tune that drifts through the ether much like Fleet Foxes at their finest. 'Tatsuya Neon Purple Walkby' is a 44-second instrumental which leads into one of the album's many highlights, 'Fuji I (Global Dub)'. It starts fairly subdued with a wiry riff and laid-back vocals before it explodes into group hollers and guitar squall. Next up 'Say What You Want to' is possibly the poppiest moment on the album - it's still completely insane though obviously. Listening to it now, actually, perhaps poppy would be pushing things a little. Akron/Family are way out there and possibly beyond the psychiatric help they clearly need.

'Fuji II (Single Pain)' starts with the sound of rainfall as the music gently creeps in; it's subdued, melancholic and absolutely stunning. Imagine a track like 'Apple Bed' from Sparklehorse's It's a Wonderful Life album and you'll get the picture. 'Canopy' is equally stunning, a crushingly beautiful track that unfurls it's magic slowly and carefully. Closing piece 'Creator' is a waltz into the sunset as Akron/Family wind down for the night - it's impeccably lovely stuff.

It seems I've rambled on for some time now but S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey Of Shinju TNT is an album worth rambling on about. Akron/Family have created a thoughally modern record with an almost 60s-like innocence at its core. There's the baffling title, the complex arrangements and the flagrant disregard for convention, yet somehow it's all made thrillingly accessible by the sheer enthusiasm and joy that Akron/Family put into their music. It's a pretty special album, from a pretty special band.

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