Akron/Family - Sub Verses

An album in acceptable disorder.

Akron/Family have been melting brains for a good few years now, their number increasing and decreasing from one album to the next, their individual roles never defined. New album ‘Sub Verses’ is a zig-zag of songs, one moment noise-rock delirium, the next cosy, hazy, beachy folk. There is no nod to consistency or predictability, itself pleasingly consistent with their reputation.

Opener ‘No-Room’ moves from soothingly minimal acoustic electronica, and ends up a full-blown, multi-layered rock song. The quantity of layers and the blurring of sound might have made it directionless, but thankfully Akron/Family have always paid attention to their lyrics. They are careful with their words and make them prominent, despite the number of voices and the complexity of the musical undergrowth, which keeps ‘No-Room’ structured and confident. This is particularly impressive, given that it lasts for nearly seven minutes. Immediately afterwards sits ‘Way Up’, a song which opens like a teenage heavy metal band in a garage, but which quickly becomes a participative, joyous cry for freedom, an attempt to find the ‘way up, the way out’. Multiple vocal lines cascade above and around a relentless, sparse and harsh accompaniment, irresistibly involving and disorienting.

‘Until The Morning’ could be from a different album by a different band. A gentle, instrumentally clear song, with soft percussion and a surprisingly conventional melody, it is more emotionally engaging than the other tracks on the album. Perhaps it’s the lack of psychedelic confusion which so often characterises Akron/Family’s music, or perhaps it’s just beautifully written; regardless, it’s an uplifting and honest album highlight.

Both ‘Sand Talk’ and ‘Sand Time’ laugh in the face of followable rhythm or easy listening; these are frantic songs which gallop urgently throughout. They are tiring for their lack of focus, although the end of ‘Sand Time’ with its plodding taunt of ‘You may borrow money but you can’t borrow time’ is a enjoyably satisfying smirk of a lyric. ‘Sometimes I’ is another slow number, the bizarre love child of a saccharine sweet Broadway musical and a slasher movie. It’s uncomfortably empty and slow, and the discord in the violin accompaniment sets the track on edge. The final songs on the record are more relaxed, a welcome antidote to the panic and weirdness of heavier songs like ‘Holy Boredom’. ‘When I Was Young’ features possibly the slowest ever R&B beat, but it’s oddly successful and soothing.

‘Sub Verses’ is an album in acceptable disorder. The instrumentation, vocalist and mood change from one minute to the next, which makes for a wobbly but addictive listen. Some of the extremes on the album feel awkward - the heavy metal too heavy, the loops of death overlooped, the calm too suddenly silent - but overall it is a deep, yawning collection of exciting musical experiments to dunk yourself into.

Tags: Akron/Family, Reviews, Album Reviews

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