AKRON/FAMILY with M. GEDDES GENGRAS, ABSOLUTELY FREE at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (April 19). $15. HS, RT, SS, TF. See listings.
Trance-inducing noise-folk band Akron/Family trimmed down to a trio after their 2007 album, Love Is Simple, but have expanded again to four members to tour their latest, Sub Verses (Dead Oceans). They needed more hands to revisit the dense layers and woozy atmospheres that colour the new work thanks to the touch of producer Randall Dunn (best known for his work with heavy-as-fuck bands like Earth and Black Mountain).
"We recorded the record as a three-piece, but one of the more surprising things Randall brought to the table was a lot of analog modular synth stuff," explains vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Seth Olinsky from his Los Angeles home. "That added a lot of textural detail that we wanted to be able to realize live."
In order to maintain those electronic elements in the live show, they've enlisted multi-instrumentalist M. Geddes Gengras. However, his role is less about duplicating specifics than it is about bringing to the table a flavour they've discovered a passion for.
"In the past, there's been zero commitment to reproducing the albums live, but with this record we were so inspired by the sonics themselves. The process of making the album introduced some new aesthetic boundaries to what we can do in our live shows. I feel like we expanded our territory by a few acres. The record was the way we came up with these ideas, but we can explore them even further live."
Things could have gone in a completely different direction in the studio, though. Olinsky's original demos were drenched in distortion and fuzz, which originally suggested cranking up a wall of guitar amps to the breaking point. Instead, Dunn seemed to hear a latent electronic element in all that saturation, which eventually resulted in the shimmering psychedelic washes of Sub Verses.
"You go into the studio and all of a sudden you back up and realize, ‘Whoa, I thought I was making something that was brown, but this is totally blue.' I think we went into this record a little more ready for that chaos, though, and we reacted to it all more maturely."