Album review: Akron/Family's 'S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT'
Since 2005's self-titled debut, Akron/Family has spent a half-decade inching from experimentation toward accessibility. Over the course of member and label changes and a number of releases, the group’s ramshackle acoustic recordings, once filled with found-sound samples and ghostly harmonies, turned toward jam-band grooves and thrashy rock riffs. Akron/Family's weirder material is behind it, and the group's audiences have grown accordingly: The act that scared off UCLA students with a 20-minute noise marathon at a show in 2006 had college kids chanting along to every lyric at a Natural History Museum headlining gig two years later.
But "S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT" is a conscious effort to pocket the hacky sack. Songs such as “Silly Bears” and “Another Sky” retain the group's recent crowd-pleasing guitar work, but a few knob twists put the searing tones closer to the distorted, bracing territory of Liars or Women. It’s on the ballads where the group’s time machine best hits its mark: “Cast a Net” and the album-closing cool-down of “Canopy” and “Creator” find the trio’s voices merging in alien harmonies while acoustic and electric guitars unfold as gently as ancient parchment. Whether raucous or tuneful, Akron/Family’s melodies tend to sink below the music -- leaving lyrics such as those of “Silly Bears,” perhaps the first sludge-rock anthem applicable to a future “Winnie the Pooh” movie soundtrack, wisely out of the spotlight.
Like most sequels, "S/T II" doesn't quite recapture the original's magic. But it evokes enough of Akron/Family’s early work to appease old fans as well as new ones, pointing the group back, at long last, in the right direction.
-- David Greenwald
“S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT”
Three stars (out of four)