Sub Verses, the freshly-released sixth studio album by New York-born psych outfit Akron/Family, begins with “No-Room”’s charging drum line, quickly saddled by a frenetic guitar lick which jumps up and down the ladder until a chorus of voices carry the melody to the bridge. The bridge--the related, but often tangential section of a traditionally-structured song that can unwind after a verse or chorus after the song’s initial framework has been laid down--is the launch pad for many great Akron/Family ideas. It’s where they sound most at home, in uncharted territory where the rules are loosened, and the creative winds are likely to carry them to a frazzled, yet beautiful end.
Indeed, “No-Room” frays at its conclusion, leaving only distortion and reverb as exposed strands. The song never fully returns to its original course, as many songs tend to come full circle, and is instead left hanging in chaos; a one-sided bridge with no easily discernible destination--yet there is a point. It is an immediate reminder that as a listener--and consumer of art, or life in general--it’s often necessary to draw your own conclusions.
“We really go down a rabbit hole with expressing something,” says A/F bassist/vocalist Miles Seaton over the phone. “This record doesn’t feel like a surface record, it feels like we really embodied those idioms.”
Seaton admits their music can be challenging or confrontational, especially in a live setting, but “As long as people acknowledge the power of that act of sharing time with each other, almost in a metaphysical sense, I feel like there’s a level where it doesn’t matter what the music sounds like or whether people play the right notes.”
When I caught up with Seaton last month, the band was traveling by van about forty miles outside of Minneapolis toward their next gig. Though their schedule has noticeably lightened, they are still the road warriors that earned them acclaim in the last decade. Their live show, which I last witnessed in 2009, is the backbone of their experience. At Bumbershoot that year, the broadcasted KEXP lounge set I sat in on had no real stopping points; it was a flowing moment where songs were scenes in a greater narrative, tied together with programmed effects and samples of field recordings. Without saying more than a few words, they succeeded in creating a unique environment to share with their audience, and left a lasting impression.”Music is something that happens on stage,” states Seaton. “Records are more like paintings, but more like a strange frozen document of moments.”
Perpetually eager to experiment, the trio has picked up a fourth, Los Angeles-based electronic musician M. Geddis Gengras, to add mono analogue synthesizers and processing to the mix on this tour, and will perform with this arrangement this Saturday at Sasquatch!. He will most likely expand upon the modular synthesizing done by Seattle musician Tim Mason of Midday Veil on Sub Verses, who was brought in by the album’s recording engineer, Seattle’s Randall Dunn.
Seaton says the sound Dunn, a seasoned rock engineer, encouraged in the studio, has been translating in a loud way in concert, and advises: “It’s heavy. Bring your fuckin’ ear plugs.”