Idyllic pastoral hallucinations
Migrate in fragrant clouds with silver glistening fringe
Sheets of sonic rain
Blow sideways between tree limb whispers
And low rumbling thunder
The retina of our collective subconscious
Is burned indelibly by fractals of dusted sunlight
Filtered through cascades of dry, glittering pastel parchment
And the drifting embers of the original psychedelic fire
You don’t listen to the new Akron/Family record, Sub Verses, you commit to it. You surrender to its gallantry, its pristine expression, its culmination. You celebrate its arrival and then spend hours trying to deconstruct it only to find you’re just shredding yourself. It’s a lesson in ego obliteration, a chance to immerse yourself in something bigger and stranger than yourself.
The disparate and ever-evolving elements that make up A/F emerged from the vibrant Williamsburg scene in 2002. From that nascence to now, A/F has floated freely between the minimalist folk of a green plastic egg shaker and the earth quaking drone of twisted guitars swimming in drenched, delayed glory. On Sub Verses, A/F’s experimentation reaches new heights, but it also arrives at a new level of comfort and mastery. Sub Verses is the marriage on the mount: A rippling canvas of studio idiosyncrasy and concert hall ecstasy.
“Sub Verses feels like a more powerful version of us,” said A/F multi-instrumentalist and singer Seth Olinsky by phone from California. “I think we invest things with this really intense energy and power. I think the sonics of this record, the way we approached it and the way we recorded it, are closer to being on par with that energy we have when we play live.”
The balance of Olinksy’s desert dreams (he recently spent time living outside Tucson communing with nature while honing his spiritual and musical connectivity) and A/F’s identity as a Brooklyn band directly influences their sound: A flowing, abstract pastiche of Ozark Mountain moonshine, DUMBO’s industrial grind, rave worthy beats and big sky harmonies.
“For us it’s been about exploring a lot of those cross points,” explained Olinsky with sunbeam enthusiasm. “I look at all of this like a footpath. The more you walk it, the more it becomes a trail. But the path isn’t always clear. Sometimes it’s just a winding, chaotic twirl from one place to another. It’s always changing. [Sub Verses] just took a direction of its own and we followed.”
Of the many standouts on Sub Verses, “Sand Talks,” with its massive, jagged beat and cascading guitars and harmonies, might be the apex, the magnetic convergence of the entire A/K experience on the head of a pin. It’s a swirling black hole sucking down and spitting out the entire musical lexicon from the guttural drone of the monks of Santo Domingo De Silos to the mind fucking math rock of The Mars Volta. It’s here that any gravity that might still exist for A/F is shrugged off. It’s the sound of the future rushing at us—weightless, relentless, inevitable and long overdue.
“If you’re doing something improvisational there are certain agreed upon boundaries that the players more or less coalesce around,” Olinsky said as he tried to make some sense of A/K’s journey from theory to practice to performance. “As the tours develop, we seem to get further and further away from the songs. Then the discovered aesthetics of the studio experience become a growing set of possibilities for the live setting.”
A/F’s box of crayons is bursting at the seams, with many of their cooler, lesser-known colors stuffed in all the crooked corners of their significant internet presence. The video for “Island” (from A/K’s 2011 release S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT) is a wonderful sojourn, a sweeping, poignant meditation on both the greatness and sadness of solitude. Under warm synth washes and sparse Peter Gabriel-like beats, the song takes flight with sweeping seascape cameras as A/K’s elegiac vocal harmonies give way to complete ascension. When we land, we are forever changed.
But for all its texture, nuance and scope, the overall aesthetic of A/F is singular and simple. A/K is the manifestation of 21st century musical freedom and the joy that comes with it, their permanent trajectory is the double-helixed, kaleidoscopic story of all sound—all that soars above, and all that lies below….
Sub Verses was released on April 30th on Dead Oceans Records. For all things Akron/Family including more music, videos and tour info, visit akronfamily.bandpage.com.