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Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free CD

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It was a century ago when I first saw Akron/Family perform, in the tiny back room of a bar in Brooklyn that held perhaps 20 people. Akron sat in chairs on a small stage festooned with red velvet and small theater light bulbs, their plentiful gadgets and musical toys littering more than a few tables – always seemingly on the verge of collapse. The young men awkwardly held their guitars in ... Read more in Amazon's Akron/Family Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD (4 May 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Crammed Discs
  • ASIN: B001Y3NM2U
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 112,215 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Everyone is Guilty
2. River
3. Creatures
4. The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen
5. Set 'Em Free
6. Gravelly Mountains of the Moon
7. Many Ghosts
8. MBF
9. They Will Appear
10. Sun Will Shine (Warmth of the Sunship Version)
11. Last Year

Product Description

Product Description

After building up an incredible, word-of-mouth reputation during the last four years, gathering an ever-growing legion of obsessive fans, Akron/Family are on the verge of a major breakthrough with their inimitable, kaleidoscopic brand of global psychedelic folk rock music.

Set 'Em Wild... is set to be one of the year's landmark releases and, as its cover suggests, sees the band effect their own entirely unique and inclusive vision of a United States of Music. From the impossibly slinky ethno-funk groove that kicks off first track Everyone Is Guilty onwards, it's clear that this band adopts a wonderfully lateral approach to guitar-based rock music. Aside from the band's signature close harmony vocal hooks, the Akron/Family musical vocabulary packs in Fela-like rhythmic momentum, heady Funkadelic guitar chops, intricate Ali Farka Toure chord tapestries, skittering, almost Timbaland-esque electronic percussion, frenzied gusts of Albert Ayler brass... and all are laced with warm, infectious folk-pop melodies.

Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free is the band's first recording since parting ways with ex-Swans Michael Gira's label, Young God Records. They recorded two albums for Young God as well as recording and touring USA and Europe backing Gira as part of his Angels of Light project.

Personnel: Seth Olinsky (guitar, vocals), Miles Seaton (bass, vocals), Dana Janssen (drums, vocals)

BBC Review

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. --Paul Clarke

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Hall on 7 Aug 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Having lived with their Meek Warrior Album for 2 or 3 years, I had a good idea of the wide spectrum of musical styles that I could expect from Akron/Family, from 'peace-and-love' tribal chants to free jazz skronk mayhem even within the scope of a single track. This occaisionally frustrates with the descents into over-long thrash/squal wigouts ...but this does manage to make the reversion to gentle acoustic passages all the more beautiful....bit like when the dentist stops drilling!
Set 'em Free is not a radical change to this musical philosophy, but there is a definite change from the seemingly spontaneous organic hippy vibe of Meek Warrior to a more studied, and apparent pre-conceived approach with almost mathmatical precision Rythymns and melodies gradually disintegrating before regrouping and rebuilding for a second enslaught.
The opening track, Everyone is Guilty, could be Discipline era King Crimson with its repetitive guitar disco funk intro. This is intended as a compliment. Tracks 2,3,4 and 5 follow in a similar vein of excellence, albeit of differing styles.
Track 6:Gravelly Mountains of the Moon is ok for the first 4 mins 30 secs before degenerating into the previously referred to frustrating noiser squal for over a minute, before being rescued by a beautiful simple ending. Would the ending be as beautiful without the preceeding nosise?
Track 7: Many Ghosts....more beauty.
Track 8: M.B.F..........This is where the beast enters! Seriously heavy riffing, that goes nowhere, but on and on, punctuated by screams and white noise for over 3 minutes....hit the skip button!
Then we return to quality music for the last 3 tracks, which I am sure I would have appreciated just as much without the preceeding 3 minutes of aural torture. Others may disagree.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Maisy Yardley on 25 Oct 2009
Format: Audio CD
Akron albums are always good value as you only have to listen to them once to be interested, twice to be hooked - but in my case I have to listen to them at least 10 times before I feel I start to understand them, and even then I get a different slant on it each time. I was misled (and put off) at first by a rreview which called them 'freaky folk' - although they do draw on folk among many many many other styles I think just 'experimental' would be a better label if they had to have one! It is amazing how they mix such different styles into their own strong and totally coherent sound; one of my favourites is the beautiful bluesy 70s style guitar solos that occasionally crop up, and also the gorgeous simple, spaced out guitar chords and arpeggios - but I think these would seem too sweet if it wasn't for the high energy jarring metal and chorus build-ups between. I was worried that they might have kept their virtuosity but lost their soul when one of the founder members left to join a Buddhist centre, but was no longer worried after I read the profound and honest lyrics to this new album and heard 'Sun will Shine' (which often brings me to tears).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"You and I and the flame make three" 23 Aug 2009
By The Pitiful Anonymous - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Akron/Family are an 'experimental rock band', also occasionally lumped in with the 'freak folk' stylings of The Angels of Light, or the more psychedelic Animal Collective. They have an extremely wide range of influences in their work, and yet they sound like a cohesive band with their own identity. You can hear the Led Zeppelin, the Sonic Youth, the Jethro Tull, as well the more modern sounds of Modest Mouse and The Arcade Fire. They're obviously listened to loads of obscure psychedelia and probably electronic music, too. The vocals range from the raw, out of tune modern indie style to a smooth tenor to Radiohead-esque breathless crooning. And if there was any question about it, they're definitely a bunch of hippies, as the tie dyed flag on the cover would suggest.

For the most part, they have near perfect control of all these different sounds, and their music paints subtle and colorful pictures. The band has a lot of passion and feeling in what they do. Their experiments definitely do not all find equal success, yet "Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free", their 4th album (and my first experience with the band), is an incredibly listenable album. After a little while, the listener knows each track will likely be distinct and stylistically different from the rest, even if they aren't all as compelling as "River" or "Creatures", the two best songs on the album, by far.

"River" is some kind of mad, over-intellectualized campfire singalong, complete with some seriously wordy lyrics, but the melody will get stuck in your head for days, and the band plays with a lot of energy... Somehow, it all totally works. "You and I and the flame make three". This song really exemplifies the woodsy, pagan flavor of the album. There's nothing here to stop you from really being drawn into their world.

"Creatures", the next track, contrasts this by beginning with a funky, almost electronic groove and fuzzed out bass line. The rhythm stays consistent as the song makes its way through some chilled out rhodes textures, and a complex, labyrinthine acoustic riff carrying emotions just as complex. It's hard to describe, but it reminds me of the moment at the end of a fun, eventful day where the energy runs out and a little bit of doubt and melancholy begins to creep in with the weariness. It's the highlight of the album for me.

There's definitely some other quality stuff on the album, ranging from good to great. "Everyone's Guilty" sounds just like 70's prog / hard rock, really. It's a great opener. "MBF" is the feedback laden, Sonic Youth inspired number, with an improvisatory feel, noisy loops and gritty, heavy distortion. It fails to be truly memorable, but it's enjoyable. "Gravelly Mountains of the Moon" starts out almost like a jazz ballad, full of comforting muted horns and piano chords. The song proceeds to become another noisy jam with group vocals. "They Will Appear" has a crushing, stop-start finale that will have you singing along whether or not you know the words.

The band does have quite the preference for vintage sounds, and in the end, the album's most glaring flaw turns out to be its commitment to making you believe it's still the 70's, as well as its penchant for repeating supposedly anthemic phrases that are actually quite uninspired and dull, lyrically. For example, "things that are still sometimes appear to move", from "The Alps / Their Orange Evergreen", or the 'finale' of the album, "Sun Will Shine" and the following epilogue, "Last Year", during which the band resorts to using a dull, overused major chord progression on the piano and chants "the sun will shine, and I won't hide" in pretty uninteresting harmony. It feels like such parts exist only as an attempt at recreating the atmosphere of classic 60's and 70's music, but without the inspiration to pull it off.

In conclusion, this is a great up and coming band and their material is consistently interesting. Their songwriting is a bit hit and miss, but I admire their adventurousness. "River" and "Creatures" are truly awesome, and I'm definitely going to check out their first 3 records. Recommended. 4 stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Haven't found a group I like this much in years 20 Sep 2009
By suncentaur - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
These guys are great. I first heard them just a few weeks ago on KCRW's morning becomes eclectic, and I immediately fell in love with their music and their hippie spirit. The songs are so alive and have such a spontaneous spirit, though they are expertly crafted. This was the first album of Akron/family I bought. I just ordered "love is simple" as well. I think I'll eventually end up with their whole collection, and can't wait to see them live. River is the most amazingly heart stopping love song I think I've heard in a long time. The lyrics on this CD are very poetic and the music is guaranteed to take you for a ride through the dreamiest places of your soul. Just when you're being soothed into a mystical lullaby, you'll be rushed awake by a tide of stirring guitars and their own special brand of jam which I can't quite find words for. Buy this CD and you'll find yourself dropping life's dull realities like clothes at the shore of a psychedelic swimming hole. Once in you won't want to get out.
an unexpected turn for 'the family'.... 6 Sep 2009
By S. Townsend - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed Akron/Family's tenure on Young God Records (but then, I am a fan of Michael Gira) and "Love is Simple", in some ways, was their crowning achievement on the label (although the s/t debut, along with their live act, is why I became a fan).
I figured that, after "Love is Simple", they would either take an acoustic/calm turn or a heavily experimental path...In some ways, they do both on "Set 'em wild...", but not in the way you'd think. With the departure of Ryan, they have both lost something
and gained something--but I can't put my finger on what. That is both my problem with the release as well as what is fresh and intriguing. In multiple listens, a few tracks really stand out ("many ghosts", "everyone is guilty", "gravelly mountains..")
and the the rest of the album remains in limbo. Perhaps this is because I so enjoyed "Love is Simple" and wanted them to explore some of those structures more. On the other hand, you can't expect a band this talented and original to stay put. What you end up with, then, is a step into somewhat unfamiliar territory (but a place that contains enough familiar landscapes--i.e. the vocal harmonies, guitar adventurousness
and the somewhat underrated percussion of Dana Jenssen). And once you're there, its not all that bad.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Definitely not their best.... 2 Aug 2009
By aproductofsociety - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have been an admirer of Akron/Family for years. I've got all their albums, have seen them in concert several times, etc. For reasons that aren't quite clear, this latest album really isn't doing it for me. All the usual Akron/Family stylistic traits are there... quirky existential lyrics, sound levels veering from quietly meditative to prolonged loud assault, intermittently countrified instrumentation.... but it just isn't adding up. Could the fact that Michael Gira didn't produce this record have something to do with its problems? I was never wild about Gira's own songs, but it might very well be that he was instrumental in making Akron/Family so compelling on their prior disks. Or could the bigger issue be Ryan Vanderhoof's departure from the band? Whatever the cause, "Love is Simple" and earlier albums were meaningfully better, in my view, than this one.

My disenchantment with "Set Em Wild..." is not the usual "uh, the band has changed its style, and I don't like this new style" -- Akron/Family is using the same musical vocabulary but their execution of it is much less effective here than in previous efforts. They've kept the shell of their music (the facade, really), but much of the soul has apparently moved on.
a warm fire for the winter 15 Dec 2009
By Samuel Gentle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This band is probably one of my favorite discoveries of the year. They're so great at making things really organic and folky, but they also occasionally implement really great electronic flourishes and larger orchestration. They love the old but they infuse it with the new. And they do it in a way that if you had never listened to folk, you wouldn't be sure if folk came before or after Akron/Family. In other words it's less of an indie schtick and more of a thoughtful fusion. The usage of family in the band name makes me imagine a resolution between 2 brothers that share a profound love of music but within different genres. "Gravelly Mountain on the Moon" is a great example. It starts out being this nice little plucky folk number but evolves into this sweeping rock jam without you questioning it. In a sonic climate where listeners have an increasingly shorter attention span, their ability to keep things interesting will likely bring them substantial rewards.
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