For those of you not in the know, Akron/Family leaked several different remixed versions of their previous album, Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, causing much confusion amongst fans. No such tomfoolery occurred in the run-up to the release of LP7, Sub Verses, but the album's going to throw listeners for a loop regardless. Stylistically, it's all over the place; this won't come as a shock to some of you, but even by the trio's usual standards, their new record is 'out there', wherever 'there' is. The only thing consistent about the record is also the most important thing: its 10 songs are all very good. Broadly speaking, it's an experimental rock record, but manages to take in noise, drone, psychedelic pop and folk along the way, all with varying degrees of intensity, which won't come as a surprise when one learns that they appeared on Swans' monolithic The Seer last year.
That album seems to have rubbed off on them more than they realise; the ferocious rhythms and almost hymnal quality of 'Sand Talk' make it one of the most intense moments on the record, and this comes after the pined soul-searching of frontman Dana Janssen on 'Until the Morning' ('"I had always wondered how you carried all that grief / I knew it wasn't right to saddle you with mine / My life, my identity: I lay them at your feet, standing broken in the mirror of your eyes"), so it doesn't take long to realise that the new record is one of the most personal Akron/Family documents yet, and it only gets more personal from there, with Janssen lamenting his lost youth on 'When I Was Young' and painting himself as an outcast on closer 'Samurai'. There's not much light to be found on an album like this, which does admittedly make it a tough listen sometimes, but Jansen has to be applauded for baring his soul so openly.
There are times when the album's sound matches the unsettling nature of its lyrics, with 'Sometimes I' relying on dissonance and a palpable sense of unease to help it stand out from the rest of the record. Situated next to the psychedelic weirdness of 'Holy Boredom', it comes off as cold and introspective, and may be a little off-putting for some listeners, but there's plenty of warmth to be found elsewhere; like in the pastoral-sounding 'Whole World is Watching', or on 'Way Up, whose infectious call-and-response vocal lines demand repeated listens. Sub Verses marks Akron/Family's 11th year as a band, and they've lost and gained members over the years, but they've managed to remain an engaging and boundary-pushing band through all that time. Sub Verses may initially scare off the casual listener, but the album reveals itself to be an accomplished work once given time.