Brooklyn freak-folk collective unleashes its latest curiosity from the creative edge
I caught Akron/Family’s supposedly “legendary” live gig at Emo’s during last year’s SXSW festival, and they were the single-worst live act I’d witnessed in the past decade—shambolic, deliberately bad, parked at the bleeding edge of where performance art meets outright incompetence.
makes the trio’s fifth full-length all the more puzzling. On one hand,
there are elements of what annoyed me so thoroughly about them in the
first place: atonal skronk of the Sun Ra/Captain Beefheart variety,
both of whom experimented with time/space/anti-melody way more
convincingly (it’s impossible to make it through “Everyone is Guilty”
and “MBF” without wincing at the sheer amateurism) and “chorale vocals”
that make John and Yoko’s most inane moments seem positively inspired
by comparison (OMG, how to even interpret “Gravelly Mountains of the
Moon?”). But then there are intervals such as “Sun Will Shine” and
“Many Ghosts,” which amaze with their ability to delicately dance along
the continuum between the Grateful Dead’s more pastoral, American Beauty-era material and Pink Floyd’s post-Syd/pre-Dark Side
period. “River” and “They Will Appear” even dip into Afro-pop’s
rhythmic complexity without tilting toward Vampire Weekend’s polymath
pretensions. What emerges from Set ’em Wild, Set ’em Free
is the realization that Akron/Family is maddeningly unknowable and,
essentially, a product of all these influences rolled up into one
gigantic, take-it-or-leave-it stringball.
Listen to tracks from Akron/Family's Set 'em Wild, Set 'em Free on the band's Myspace.