Music News

Akron/Family Gets to Live the Old Prog Rock Dream With Their Indulgent Recording Process

Remember the good old days when every rock band at a certain level had some decadently elaborate backstory with regard to their recording process? You know, the abandoned French castle where the band wrote the lyrics, followed by the recording of the album in a Kentucky bluegrass bar where Satanic rituals were once commonplace, and mastering it in Charles Manson's childhood home. Once upon a time, when major labels had fat cash, lots of bands could indulge in such wildly inefficient recording practices. Sadly, that's mostly gone by the wayside. When a band is big enough to warrant a major investment of label cash, the stakes are too high to fuck around.

However, perhaps it should come as no surprise that an album named Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT was written in a cabin on the side of a Japanese mountain and subsequently recorded in an abandoned Detroit train station. Akron/Family is known for their rather odd modus operandi. Their early work utilized a hodgepodge of out-there musical styles — field recordings, thunderclaps, Cherokee chants, and even a glockenspiel. Other head-trippingly strange, psychedelia-influenced manifestations lent themselves naturally to the band's image, and Akron/Family's legend was born.

Finally, we've reached the point where indie bands — Akron/Family is signed to smallish label Dead Oceans — can do such things. Soon, we may wonder, "Whatever happened to the days where indie bands had a more modest, predictable, and maybe even boring writing and recording process? When an album was written at the lead singer's suburban apartment and then recorded at a standard, run-of-the-mill recording studio?"

But, hey, music evolves over time, and not every band finds inspiration in the same way. Newer bands are constantly trying to further the sound of their respective genres, and no genre has more bands pushing the boundaries than indie rock. So it ends up that this band is writing its album in an Aboriginal hut somewhere in Western Australia and is recording its album in some beat-to-hell building that was once a mortuary.

Would Akron/Family's latest work have been the same had the band had written everything at some New York coffee shop and then recorded it at a proper studio somewhere in Los Angeles? Probably not. The bar, thanks to the band, has been set ridiculously high for indie rock bands of the future. How far away are we from reading an article about how some new, buzzworthy band wrote their new album while being hunted for sport and then recorded it in the storeroom of a Piggly Wiggly in Jackson, Mississippi?

For bands like Akron/Family, the elaborate writing processes and exotic recording spaces act as the first piece in a new album's puzzle. Unless a single already has been released, there is not much to expect from a favorite band's new album, aside from the dirt on its recording and writing processes — if the band even chooses to disclose such information. A band like Akron/Family would have no problem sending out a press release informing everyone that Shinju TNT was written in a cabin on the side of Mt. Meaken — on the Japanese island of Hokkaido — and subsequently recorded in an abandoned train station in Detroit, a city that's had its fair share of abandonment in the past few years.

Looking beyond the interesting nature of both locales, Japan and Detroit offered a very real inspiration for Akron/Family, one that manifests itself in Shinju TNT. Writing original content for a new album can be a trying process, so being able to find whatever inspiration is possible by writing in a new locale can only have a positive effect on a new album.

Wherever Akron/Family chose to write and record their latest album, Shinju TNT is an immensely layered effort — quite possibly the band's best. It all boils down to how the band can create their best effort. For the members of Akron/Family, the more bizarre that process is, the better.

Now who will try to top them?

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Michael Lopez