Music made with imagination really let off the leash. Long may they roam untamed.
Paul Clarke 2009
Anyone who heard 2007's Love Is Simple LP or has experienced one of their infamously chaotic live shows will know that Akron/Family were never synonymous with musical restraint. Still, Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free truly lives up to its title by being both gloriously unhinged and joyously unrestrained.
The American band are serial collaborators, with kindred psychedelic spirits Angels Of Light, post-rock group Do Make Say Think and jazz drummer Hamid Drake some of the names they've worked with since forming in New York in 2002. Yet despite their third album being the product of Akron/Family's most skeletal crew yet – Ryan Vanderhoof's departure in 2007 leaving them as the multi-instrumental trio of Dana Janssen, Seth Olinsky and Miles Seaton – it actually sounds like everyone they've ever met is also along for the ride here. Not to mention The Grateful Dead, John Coltrane, Fleet Foxes and a hundred forgotten 1960s folk and rock groups they found in second hand record shops in Brooklyn.
Opening track Everyone Is Guilty alone contains Afro-tinged percussion, choral vocals, gnarled blues riffs and strings, and that barely scratches the surface of Akron/Family’s mine of inspiration. Sun Will Shine begins as a Spiritualized-style gospel rock mantra before ending in a brass band coda that sounds like an outtake from Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Gravelly Mountains Of The Moon is half folk as hippy as its title and half heavy metal freak out, while MBF sees them launching headlong into a free jazz overdrive of screams and tortured guitars.
There might be little discernible method in Akron/Family's madness but there are usually melodies however; beautiful tunes which breathe easiest in the simpler tracks like Americana ballad Set 'Em Free Pt. 1 or the subdued piano of the closing Last Year. Yet whether Akron/Family choose to scream or sigh, Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free is music made with imagination really let off the leash. Long may they roam untamed.