Though they’d started making waves with woodsy harmonies and fungi-induced trippiness, Akron/Family explored their depths on 2011’s volcano-written, dinosaur-diorama featuring S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT. With their seventh studio album, Sub Verses, the trio continue on that trajectory, the mystic chanting and ceremonial trances dancing through the scattering ash. Due to that cratered impact, everything on the album sounds urgent, an exhilarating feeling that takes a while to escape.
Opener “No-Room” incorporates elements of prog into the raga. After some hocketed vocal interchange and shambling percussion, a low-slung mantra vocal counterpoints the skitter. “Oh, it’s so hard to breathe,” they crow, as if bursting wide-eyed into the world. Akron/Family’s harmonized chants, psychedelia, and drum circle rhythms have garnered a fair share of Animal Collective comparisons over the years, and the grand, twinkling clack-boom of “Way Up” matches that band’s delirious highs. Later, “Holy Boredom” is like a song excised from the mire of “Slippi”, high-octane sludge coursing through spindly veins.
Minor rumbles like “I’m about to burn alive” give “Until the Morning” a haunting echo, and “Sometimes I” lingers formlessly for a while, horror-soundtrack strings glimmering in the darkness. This sense of lingering chaos consumes the album, even the quietest moments admitting that the storm is surrounding. This is occasionally punctuated by the pure joy of a polyrhythm or lithe guitar riff, as on the incessant “Sand Time”, but that anxiety remains: “I heard it somewhere said / Something I once read / Sometimes you are living but you’re better off dead.”
The dark doo-wop horns and aquatic guitar of “When I Was Young” crop up unexpectedly near the album’s close, as if to make room for the glistening “Samurai”. The first glimpse of open air, the song expands into slide guitar, the large vocal delivery the expression of salvation and the salvation itself: “I made my voice my temple when I had no temple.” By musically expressing the darkness, Sub Verses manages to find peace.
Essential Tracks: “No-Room”, “Sand Time”, “Samurai”