Event on 2013-05-29 20:00:00
Supporting Acts: Avi Buffalo, M. Geddes Gengras
It was a century ago when I first saw Akron/Family perform, in the tiny back room of a bar in Brooklyn that held perhaps 20 people. Akron sat in chairs on a small stage festooned with red velvet and small theater light bulbs, their plentiful gadgets and musical toys littering more than a few tables – always seemingly on the verge of collapse. The young men awkwardly held their guitars in their laps or gently played drums/percussion, apparently trying not to knock anything over (to disastrous results) mid set. Cables and extension cords laced through their legs, they proffered a sort of delicate, improvisational experimentalism, laced with occasional rock grooves, but most extraordinarily, often punctuated with beautiful 4 part harmonies… Time passed, and I recall seeing them at a sold out show somewhere in Europe and thinking "Wait! This is fucking Led Zeppelin!" – and that is a huge vote of approval. They sounded nothing like LZ of course, but something about the supercharged commitment and force of the sound evoked a similar full blooded ROCK, albeit with an adventurous, skewed bent and a marked tendency to let things suddenly collapse into utter chaos then snap back just as quickly into focus in a moment of pure, unabashed sonority. Absolutely thrilling, stunning, and great fun, too… More time passed, and they worshiped at the throne of late period Beatles, filtered through the lens of their own idiosyncratic tendency to mash things up and change atmosphere/context in an instant… Yet more time passed and free jazz improv and deep sonic meditations came to the fore, always brought into focus with their unique brand of vocal harmony and frankly trenchant melodies… Now even more time has passed, and we find them rocking (still rocking) but now in a skittering kaleidoscope. The shards of music styles and influences flung through the speakers from all directions, congealing for a second, then just as quickly dissolving into something new and unexpected. They're amphetamine crazed jugglers of sound and texture, but there's always those vocals, rooting the thing in a deep and satisfying place. It seems to me lots of groups these days view the whole history of music as fair game for their palette, which might be understandable, since it's all there at easy access now, but most of it seems like playing dress up to me, and certainly it exists in inverted commas. There are no inverted commas in the world of AK. They're inside the music, grinding it, fighting it, chewing it, digesting it, then spewing it up to the sky in a multicolored spray of endless sound and love. I wrote these random, extremely inarticulate notes while listening to Sub Verses: "Seeing this: a thick purple perfumed mist spreads out across the cracked desert floor as the raider AKs ride forth on bloodied white stallions – somehow quintessentially American. A conflation of orchestrated Jazz, Prog Psych, R&B and devotional mantras. Their hermetic hero guitars serve the master sky… Stomping monsters harried by stuttering tin fractured birds set a scene for cycling Akron call and response…. Nothing's predictable, forms shifting… Song structure dictated only by forward momentum, the sprawl of unfolding sound… Weirdly effeminate whimsy leads quickly to brash and brazen hard rock before dissolving into an echo of itself… All sound fed to the grinder… Grizzled Beach Boys, fully bearded and flea infested willfully surrendering to the lysergic gas attack. Hold your shriveled ego and watch it unfold like a purple meat-flower in your grubby hand… Clouds shifting at full speed – gelatinous, deliquescing tectonic plates lurching overhead… Mothers of Invention berate and whip Beefheart on a leash through traffic. Cars are rabid dogs nipping at the heels of rhythm. Growling, time breaks down and Beach Boys reappear swinging sledgehammers that melt instantly as they strike and flow/melt into hot red lava in a desert ditch then steams in metal drones of vapor, aluminum sheens hovering just above the sand… Chet Baker's trumpet spills silver toxic goo on cracked filthy bare feet…. Sudden industrial grind sets scene for hairball shaman rant…. These omnivores are cannibals too… Pop/rock music of the last 50 years put through a meat grinder and leavened with battery acid and honey…. Who would have thought they'd become voracious beasts… Orchestrated chaos… Genesis P-Orridge's Throbbing demon screeching through the throats of suddenly fever-eyed ordinary American optimist males… Reach to the sky, but the sky is a thick swirl of purple/brown goo… Big ass rock riffs trudge awkwardly forward with some kind of internal simian elegance of purpose… A giant concrete hall teeming with naked hairy fans shining with sweat and writhing like upright snakes to the curling cycling riffs of the crazed and lit avatars of a new perversely inverted animal psych…. Ghost of Spector/Lennon in another concrete hall in the same filmic world where Lynch's Eraserhead lives… An herbal guitar solo unfurls liquidly, redly, into smoke machine haze… Music dissolves in sad earnest mist of drenched melancholy, spent… " Michael Gira Swans Young God records The album started with visions of large monumental sounds inspired by Heizer and Turrell; American works on a grand scale, monuments, dirty hands and an epic American masculinity. Dust, Stone, Sky, Earth. These broad, bold strokes would come to pass but not quite as expected. A Sci Fi aesthetic narrative emerged. Tackling distant pasts and future humanism, the pain and idiocy of our contemporary culture. How to deal with it open heartedly? The boredom, the sadness and speed. The plots within plots of Dune mirrored in many layers of sound. Creating 3D sonic atmospheres that our songs and singers inhabit. Our story, a story, all stories. Told in verses, in underground language, in sub frequencies. Not audible, only felt, intuited, imagined in some deepest psychic space that you are yet to know. A strange story. Of the future, of yourself. Of everyone. We are all we are, only this and yet we move forward. Along some line to somewhere. And who knows? Seth Olinsky Akron/Family As with other Akron/Family records the Idiomatic perspective shifts restlessly. From Shamanic hypno-mantras to Noise-damaged Soul anthems to North african street frenzy, from Droning Microtonal Balladry to modular synthesizer destruction to Lynchian Doo-Wop and back again. The sound is propulsive and driven by it's physicality, and a disciplined acknowledgement of Lineage. Akron/Family is here, with drums and guitars like divining rods calling on Sonny Sharrock and Link Wray, on Elvin Jones and John Bonham, on Jimmy Garrison and Aston Barrett. But when we sing we are calling on ourselves, on the deep river of inspiration that connects the whole. We are singing Old Stories. The narrative thread is one of the Desert, that ancient ocean floor, long dried to reveal a barren expanse of scorched fossils. Of Life and Death and Time, of a vision of a people, weary and traumatized – driven from their nobility and sense of purpose to the brink of total nihilism under the lash of information overload. Intelligence giving way to remix culture, nothing to do but blindly live as customers, stumbling, content drunk through the digital bazaar. A bunch of fucking Payers. All of us. The hot wind is blowing hard on us and what is there to do but turn our face to it and sing?
at The Independent
628 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, United States