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Akron/Family: Set ’Em Wild, Set ’Em Free

 

B+

Akron/Family

Album: Set ’Em Wild, Set ’Em Free
Label: Dead Oceans

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The members of Akron/Family have always stood slightly apart from whatever scene they’ve been associated with, being too cohesive and tuneful to be tagged “freak-folk” or “noise-rock,” yet too experimental to fit in with the jam-band or indie crowds. Akron/Family’s fourth LP Set ’Em Wild, Set ’Em Free also defies pigeonholing. Opening with the beat-crazy “Everyone Is Guilty,” Set ’Em Wild proceeds through 50 minutes of loose, unpredictable rock that references Malian rhythms, King Crimson-style art-pop, Deadhead noodling, meaty prog, and moody Americana. The unifying element is the percussion, which Akron/Family uses as much to create negative space as to drive the songs. At times Set ’Em Wild creates the feeling of gliding smoothly across a grassy plain, but then the pounding beat and slashing guitars will switch up or drop out suddenly—at one point even disappearing for several songs in a row—and a smooth ride gets a lot bumpier. In the Akron/Family universe, disorder is part of the order, and Set ’Em Wild advances that yin-yang philosophy through music that binds disparate genres through an expansive imagination and force of will.