May 31, 2009

Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free-Akron/Family

The title of this album is surely appropriate. For this music is free. Is wild. Definitely good. Very good in fact. The band that was four is now three and their recently released album is a triumph in joy and of substance. It is mercurial, magical and breathes the stuff of life.

When Ryan Vanderhoof left Akron/Family in 2007 it remained to be seen whether the texture of this cerebral band would change. Thankfully the three remaining members don't appear to have missed a beat, creating music that is engaging and warm and very personal. It is also eclectic and genre defining. The opening track "Everyone Is Guilty" is ample evidence of this. Cowbells and organs chime before giving way to a funky beat that traverses for the remainder of the song, which sometimes stops to give us another Akron/Family signature. The harmonies, in three, soar here and elsewhere on this luminescent disc. If the opener is funky and raw, then "River" is pure bliss. Smooth as honey and just as tasty. The song is tender and warm. "You and I and a flame make three", indeed. The drumming is great on this song as well. The rest of the album uncovers pure delights and treasures, hopping all over the place stylistically along the way. "Creatures" displays some almost electronic wizardry, whilst "The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen" is wistful and softly, softly. A reminder of their folk tag. If this album needs an epic then it would have to be "Gravelly Mountains of the Moon", which features a pan flute for a opener. Then it becomes a perfect marriage of whisper folk and wig out guitar, with harmonies crammed on top. Trust me, it works. It nearly all does, especially the closing triumvirate of songs. "They Will Appear" is begun with a doom laden drum, before it rises to a stirring finish and amid more special harmonies. This song also features the words of Black Elk! Then "Sun Will Shine (Warmth of the Sunship Version) is simplicity itself. A repetitive, yet totally hypnotic song, that leads to the brief closer "Last Year". Closing with optimism and hope is appropriate, for Akron/Family are major traders in these ideals. Their music is hopeful, organic, beguiling and totally original. Who could ask for anything more?

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