Album: Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free
Release: Deep Oceans Records, May, 2009
One minute into the six minute long, psychedelic-face-melting opener, “Everyone Is Guilty”, I was hooked. Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free is the fifth studio album release from the Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based three-man band Akron/Family. It was also the band’s first self-produced album since leaving their original label, Young God Records, founded by Michael Gira, frontman of the ’80’s New York “no-wave” band Swans.
The band’s departure from Young God Records seems to have allowed the band to take the reins and control the album’s vision, and their enthusiasm for this can be felt throughout. SEWSEF contains a mix of songs that grasp at elements of free roaming jazz, afro-funk, tribal chants, and seemingly-effortless rock hooks.
By the time the second song “River” began, the album already had its hooks in me and my knee was trying to keep pace. “River” rolls effortlessly into the beat-based third track, “Creature”, which morphs into a more melodic trance, accompanied by the catchy lyrical craftsmanship that is found on all Akron/Family albums. Track four, “The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen”, blew me away with the vulnerability in bassist/lead singer Miles Seaton’s voice, and the crystal clear imagery portrayed in this beautiful folk composition.
Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free takes its first steps at track one, and is galloping by the time the record stops spinning. When the needle lifted from the vinyl at the end of the double LP 45 rpm album, I had to take a step back to think about what the hell had just happened. These are beautifully unique songs, interspersed with some very raw, primal moments. It’s not an easy listen at first pass, but these moments contribute to the development of the album as a whole.
Heed this warning: track eight, “MBF”, is a three-chord thrasher that will catch you off guard and have you running to your pre-amp in order to save the foundation of your home. Songs like “MBF” make you appreciate it when the more traditional songs emerge from the rubble.
Since first hearing this album 9 years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to see Akron/Family live at some of Denver’s most intimate venues. Each time, I’ve caught myself bobbing my head, trying to keep up with the pace and wondering, ‘how can they pull off playing songs from Set ‘Em Wild live?’ But they do, oh they do. And they crush it, every time. The three-man band appears to communicate during shows through some visceral language which only a Cerberus could understand.
As I return to this album time after time, it continues to reveal new little moments and nuance that I didn’t pick up on previous listens. Highly recommended, and worth the effort.
Favorite Side and Tracks of the album:
4. “The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen”
5. “Set ‘Em Free, Pt. 1”
6. “Gravelly Mountains Of The Moon”