AKRON/FAMILY: S/T II: THE COSMIC BIRTH AND JOURNEY OF SHINJU (2011)
1) Silly Bears; 2) Island; 3) A AAA O A WAY; 4) So It Goes; 5) Another Sky; 6) Light Emerges; 7) Cast A Net; 8) Tatsuya Neon Purple Walkby; 9) Fuji I; 10) Say What You Want To; 11) Fuji II; 12) Canopy; 13) Creator.
Okay, this is no longer tolerable. According to hearsay, this album, in its entirety, was composed near a live volcano in a cabin on Hokkaido (see front cover). Apparently the next attempt to revitalize and revolutionize modern music will consist of composing and arranging an entire album while suspended on a cable from a helicopter circumflying a New Guinean jungle valley. This is the kind of approach that is bound to breed 21st century Mozarts and McCartneys.
Amazing feeling — it is not as if the Akron/Family approach here has changed much, yet I sense more irritation brewed by this record than by all of their previous catalog put together. Doubtless, chronology is part of the reason behind this feel. For a debut album from a freshly strung experimental band, S/T II would have been a respectable promenade — show off one's chops, eclecticity and open-mindedness. For a band that, after groping in the dark for several years, had somehow begun to finally justify its existence, it is a total disaster.
What does it all sound and seem like, this time? Imagine The Animal Collective, only without their unique electronic kaleidoscope and without their — honestly amazing — ability to create otherworldly vocal harmony waves. But with their, often pointless, mix of lazy folk vibes with tribal droning, avantgarde dissonance, and nonsensical lyrics. Now hang on; I am not saying that this is the first time ever that we are getting this stuff from A/F. But even on their least interesting records, they used to at least balance the pointless stuff with pure, unspoiled moments of beauty. I never liked Meek Warrior, but it had 'Gone Beyond' on it, reminding me of the fact that there were real people with actual human hearts out there, and one could, with relative ease, try and establish a wi-fi link to them. S/T II is a closed network in itself.
There is plenty of energy. 'Silly Bears' jump around like crazy to a life-asserting buzz of electronic equipment and choral vocals, and 'Another Sky' scatters neo-psychedelic happiness all over the place. But already Seth Olinsky's quiet mumbling into his sweater undermines all the joy, and, what's worse, not a single of these sonic overlays strikes any soul chords — everything is too sterile, too stuffy, too over-thought and over-calculated.
And what once used to be prettiness has mutated into by-the-book minimalism with zero impact, e. g. the concluding duo of 'Canopy' and 'Creator', on which introspective acoustic, angelic slide and tender, fragile singing try to combine in heavenly beauty and end up sounding like a lame parody on The Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin, masterminded by a bunch of robots. I don't know — was Ryan Vanderhoof really the heart and soul of this band, confined to making this plastic kind of sound from now on, or is it simply a case of inhaling too much volcanic ash, with subsequent clogging of one's spiritual channels? Regardless of the answer — a vicious thumbs down to the most technically complex and the most excruciatingly boring Akron/Family album as of yet.
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