Forget all the hubbub and hype surrounding this release, as Akron Family deserve far more respect that to label their newest record some sort of creation via clever marketing. On The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT you will likely find hints of the band’s past throughout, but not a group to rest their, they push their sound, and all their influences to new extremes.
“Silly Bears” kicks in with this really heavy riff, and for a minute, you’ll swear you just put on a Sleigh Bells record. Don’t be alarmed though, stomping drums continue, but a slithering guitar line meanders in and out, all the while the band do their best to contain the exuberance in their voices, until it explodes at the 4 min. 29 sec. mark. The track’s bombastic and all over the place, but that’s why its great. Juxtaposed is “Island,” a much slower track, filled to the brim with cinema-like atmospherics atop a hollow drum. The vocals enter softly “off the coast of Mexico” and you’ll find yourself casually rocking back and forth on some sort of beach hammock. Such restraint in this moment is why the band’s listens are so endearing, never afraid to go someplace completely different than where you thought you were headed.
Even more shocking for some listeners are the moments when the band give you two contradicting moods within a track, and do it successfully. Listening to “Another Sky” you’ll get claustrophobic, as there seems to be so much going on; there’s what sound like drum rolls on the rim of the kit, crazy soloing guitars, “oohoohoohs” chanting in the background. Then a bit of a clap-a-long breaks it all down into something momentarily quiet, resting primarily on the vocals, but the tension still builds to its eventual release. It’s a brief soft moment, almost a pause, but just the slightest change in formula creates an emotional release for band and listener alike.
Personally, I’ll admit that I like when Akron Family stick to the traditional songwriting mode. “Light Emerges” uses what one assumes are island percussive elements and just hints of guitar to give the vocals somewhere to walk. And walk they do, but they also rise high, just before briefly stopping. It’s then that the band breaks it down for a second, but those elements are then consumed by the song itself, sucked up into the fury that wraps itself around much of The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT. These types of tracks are far more successful, and appealing, when placed next to noisier moments such as “Say What You Want To,” a song that borders on pure mindless noise at moments. Yes, there are clear moments of skill and craft within, but rambunctious moments just don’t seem as successful.
Clearly, Akron Family are not your ordinary band, and in being such, they’re not likely to make a record that you can just sit and absorb. They push your ears in all directions, begging you to deconstruct the songs as you seem fit, filling tracks with as much, or as little (“Canopy”), as they wish. There are certain times when it all seems to be too much, yet they pull you back in with just a light change in direction in the middle of a track. Such gentle moves are only a mark of the maneuvering and talent that lays within The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/01-Silly-Bears-11.mp3]
Download: Akron/Family – Silly Bears [MP3]