Akron/Family Akron/Family

[Young God; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: freakfolk, electro-glitch folk, strum n’ wail
Others: Michael Gira, Grandaddy, the Czars, Devendra Banhart

Obligatory intro: Brooklyn's Akron/Family are a bearded 4-piece recently signed to Michael Gira of the Swans' label Young God. The band has been opening for Gira's band Angels of Light on their current tour, and once finished playing their own material, remain on stage to play as the Angels themselves, backing Gira, who also produced this record. Young God has recently released the band's debut LP, and it ain't too shabby. Opening track "Before and Again" gradually adds string texture to a simply picked guitar melody and ethereal, breathless male vocals before things switch up and drums come in during the fourth minute. The "difference" element here is an intermittent beeping sound, which owes a lot to the title track of Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen, which began that record in a similar and equally pleasing fashion. The only other touchstone I could produce is Grandaddy -- beards, high voices, electronics, and on "I'll Be on the Water," the word "dream" is repeated, as in "Miner at the Dial-a-View" from the former band's The Sophtware Slump. But a song like "Running, Returning," featured here, is stronger than anything on Grandaddy's latest effort.

Elsewhere, Akron/Family add electro-noise, handclaps, and assorted other percussion, and plenty of effects-processed guitar to their slow-poke folk. The biggest pleasant surprise here, though, is the vocals. Although each member contributes vocals and plays multiple instruments, Ryan Vanderhoof has one of the most delightful tenors this side of Iceland. According to the label's website, none of Akron/Family's four members are over 25, pretty remarkable when you consider that this debut, which runs to an hour-plus, dabbles in an extremely broad sonic palette (god I hate that term). The best moments, such as when "Italy" hits its stride, are when Akron/Family actually sound like a family; the group's other members chime in and sing backup like the "LSD backwoods barbershop quartet" to which Young God compares them. "I'm ready," they sing, and when your first album has such (mostly) compelling moments of grandeur, quiet bliss, and sheer cathartic slow-core noise, what aren't you ready for? I wait with bated breath for the band's next move.

P.S. Having grown up in Akron, OH, I gotta give props for that name.

1. Before and Again
2. Suchmess
3. Part of Corey
4. Italy
5. I'll Be on the Water
6. Running, Returing
7. Afford
8. Interlude: Ak Ak Was the Boat They Sailed in On
9. Sorron Boy
10. Shoes
11. Lumen
12. How do I Know
13. Franny/you're Human
14. Untitled