Intended for the Open-Minded

Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free

(Dead Oceans)

Akron Family

By Hunter Embry

Even with the departure of lead vocalist Ryan Vanderhoof, Akron Family and its latest release, Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free, continues to pick away at territory not often crossed in experimental folk rock, especially lately. The trio continues to introduce open ears to new combinations of sounds.

It's hard to categorize a band that roots itself in country/folk acoustic riffs but splits nearly every song with an array of strange instrumentation and patterns. The album opener "Everyone is Guilty" has an undeniable funk groove that's concocted by a bouncy, jazz-style beat with a scrambling Stevie Wonder-esque riff and drifting Lennon-type vocals. Somehow the song manages to creep into an organ droned Irish-style chant before exploding into a hard rock riff and thick vocaled, call-and-response this all happens before the audible appearance of the string and horn sections and screaming guitar solos.

"Everyone is Guilty" is followed by "River," which comes equipped with a polished and delayed, tickling guitar, a set of "Stairway to Heaven" flutes, and several growing vocal melodies. The track starts with fairy tale rhythms before dancing around a marching beat. "River" continues down a stream weaving through usual organic sounds placed in unusual places.

Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free switches directions again with "Creatures," which begins with a slow-tempo, N.W.A-style electronic beat, grooving bass and a synthesizer that mimics that of late-'80s Nintendo games. The vocals have an in-unison, 311-type style that eventually rides a crisp, yet full-toned acoustic guitar.

Akron Family and Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free is only for the most open of musical tastes because the group epitomizes musical experimentation and they do it well.

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