Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Review of the Akron Family and Phosphorescent at the Bodega Social, Nottingham, Tuesday 4th December, 2007
Support act Phosphorescent (Matthew Houck) kicked off the evening... a high, plaintive voice (timbrally located in the Neil Young camp) and amplified acoustic guitar. He's from Brooklyn these days but I gather he originally comes the south of the U.S. which would perhaps account for the country/rural feel to his material. Interesting songs - but what takes him off onto another level is the last number where he slowly builds up multi-tracked repeat/delay vocals – and then proceeds to screw them mightily into the screeching realms of brutal sonic disturbance. From the spiritual yearning for purity and innocence to the Devil's Chorale of the electronic abyss... mighty stuff...
A suitable taster for the Akron Family. I saw them here in 2006 and it was one of the gigs of the year (and that was a good year – as this has been – for live music). Tonight they open lightly – soon dropping back to just three voices, acapella accompanied by finger clicks and encouraging the audience to join in and sustain the digital rhytm, as it were. When the instruments come back in – they proceed to go from country yiha (more high-voiced yearning) to looser jams, arriving at a song about bears (which skirted the areas of twee) – and then taking off into a long wild and free ride that seems to encompass the distance between Jimmy Rodgers or Hank Williams, say, to the howling electronic blast of Wolf Eyes. Via the Grateful Dead, perhaps... But these comparisons are just there as a rough marker – the Akron Family have their own voices – that speak and howl in many tongues. There's a big emphasis on rhythm in their music and it goes through those backbeat country waltzes to freer sections via a carnival of thumping, slambanging syncopations with bodhran added for a hint of Irish – recorder and whistle giving another layer of celtic twiddle that also echoes the fife and drum bands of yesteryear (from both Afican-American and transplanted European traditions. Instruments are swapped to add to the blur of style and sheer exuberant fun – all done in an aw-shucks manner that plays down their expertise. But there is expertise a - plenty here – these boys know what they are doing, backed by a drummer who can turn on a penny (or a dime, to suit the idiom) to hold it all together, delicate acoustic guitar traceries bend into electric guitar freakouts with some country picking in occasional contrast to match up to the high lonesome hollers. Ending on a long noise-drenched wahoo with Phosphorescent joining in on drum, they might just be the best band on the planet tonight.