Akron/Family are one of those rare bands that still manage to create a sense of mystery. Their most recent album, Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (they claim to have no idea what that means), was deliberately leaked by the band to defy the now-typical rampant piracy and pre-release hype that is now typical of any new record.  However, Akron/Family like to mess with people, so they put out six different mixes of the album; some under their own name, some as the forthcoming release of other bands like Death Cab for Cutie.

The alternate mixes showed the band heading further out into experimental territory; mix two, in particular, was so heavy and distorted that it could’ve passed for a Japanese noise album, were it not for the vocals. To their credit, they still have a distinctive weirdness that’s clearly identifiable through whatever they do to their music.



Despite an unfortunate Sunday evening slot, the band drew a good crowd to the Corner Hotel with still enough room to get to and from the bar without much difficulty. They started slow with a loose sound-scape that built into a mix of noises that sounded like they were off the new album, but it was difficult to determine which track. Most of the set had a improvised feel, and, although they only played one track off a previous album (a heavily reworked River from Set ‘Em Wild Set ‘Em Free (2009)), there was more than enough variety to keep things from getting stale.

Those online-only mixes gave some indication as to what Akron/Family have been listening to recently, as the inclusion of sample pads has dramatically altered their sound, for the better. This is by far the heaviest they’ve been since the collaborative album with Swans leader Michael Gira. It isn’t anywhere near as chaotic as that album, but the transition between three-part harmonies and bursts of distortion was an unexpected and welcome surprise.



If you were concerned that their new-found interest in electronic instruments would make the band more introspective and shoegaze-y, fear not. One of the highlights of the set was a huge rendition of Another Sky, complete with two dances (an inner dance and an outer one), frantic solos and, at one point, a shoulder ride for one particularly happy audience member.

Leaving the stage seemingly exhausted after a packed ninety-minute set, the band returned for a much more relaxed encore, closing with all three members sharing a microphone for the a capella Love and Space. As their voices slowly faded to silence, the audience was reminded why Akron/Family are regarded as one of the best psychedelic folks bands around. If all their experiments are this successful, then whatever they do next will be worth looking out for.



The Corner Hotel
Sunday October 2, 2011



Words: Liam Jordan

Akron/Family live photo by Madalyn Baldanzi.

Tags: akron/family, australia, corner hotel, death cab for cutie, melbourne, michael gira, psychadelic, swans

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