Akron/Family Perform ‘Gone Beyond’

akron_family_meek_warriorListen to this track by Pennsylvanian-turned-New Yorker indie-folk outfit Akron/Family.  It’s their Jimmy Page-in-Davy-Graham-mode slice of acoustic guitar and percussion glory off of their 2006 album Meek Warrior. The track can also be found on the MOJO magazine compilation The Quiet Revolution, which corralled a number of so-called “nu-folk” tracks together that year.

This track leapt out at me just because to me it seemed, and seems, to suggest a greater meaning underneath its pristine simplicity.  And this is a very simply-constructed song, with sparse lyrics that sound almost like a hushed chant.  This is one of the things I like about it.  It seems to evoke a spiritual aspect without all of the distasteful baggage which is often associated with using music as a means to convey a spiritual message.

What does “gone beyond/gone completely beyond” actually mean? Well, it’s a translated Buddhist mantra – Heart Sutra – and placed into a decidedly Western musical motif.  Yet, because it’s been placed in this context, are there other meanings to be gleaned from it?

Maybe the song points to something as lofty as that the world as we know it is something that we can get beyond, to Heaven, or maybe more accurately to Nirvana.  Or, it could mean that the music itself has gone beyond what we think of it – not folk, not pop, not anything but what it is – music being played, with a value beyond simple labeling.  The band are certainly adventurous stylistically, with no one genre really being enough to contain their sound.

Or, maybe it’s not that either.

And speaking of spiritual matters, there are a number of murmurings about the spiritual element to this band, although their website is wonderfully evasive of any real hard facts about who they are or where they’re coming from.  That is, unless you can pull together the secrets of the universe from cash receipts, doodles, and bowling scores.  Yet, perhaps there is a zen value to be found in these things too, the remnants of time spent just existing without thought of anything higher, yet with the potential to attain that higher ground waiting all the same.

For more information about Akron/Family, check out the Akron/Family MySpace page.

And check out the Akron/Family official website.


Mogwai Performs ‘Friend of The Night’

Mogwai emerged in the late 90s from Glasgow, gaining attention in particular with their second LP Come On Die Young, on which they were something of a poster band for what was being referred to as ‘post-rock’. The term is pretty presumptuous of course, given that rock music is certainly very much a living form. Yet, the idea of taking guitars, bass, and drums and using them as textures, rather than as instruments to present traditional rock songs is certainly a challenge to those who feel that guitar bands must follow a specific path to creating albums and playing live shows.

Listen to this track by post-rock powerhouse Mogwai.  It’s “Friend of The Night”, a highpoint of the excellent Mr. Beast from 2006.  This track reveals something of the lyrical side of the band, in addition to their propensity for layering guitar parts into dense walls of sound.

Rock guitar playing in the last forty years has been, to a certain extent, an exercise in reacting to virtuoso playing of Hendrix, Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and others. Either you’re for ’em or against ’em. Yet, with this band, there is a different approach to playing a guitar loudly, yet also reaching for something other than guitar heroics.

Mogwai don’t hold back on wattage, choosing to create interlaced melody lines instead of individual soloing. The efforts of combined parts into a larger whole, often building up the melodies and counter-melodies bit by bit into a crescendo, creates a unique kind of tension.  And as such, the idea that guitar playing must be flashy and immediate to be powerful is revealed to be nonsense.

This song in particular is a perfect example of mood, melody, and monster volume.  Despite the lack of lyrics, there is a powerful emotional undercurrent implied here.  Actually, it may be because there are no lyrics that this is the case; the listener’s ear is encouraged to fill in the gaps.  And so, what this song, and others, may be ‘about’ is entirely subjective, yet in many ways with a greater potential to strike an emotional chord.

For more information about Mogwai, check out mogwai.co.uk.