Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 6:50 am | Fair 53º


Jeff Moehlis: The Cosmic Journey of Akron/Family

Eclectic band makes its local debut at SOhO

Calling Akron/Family eclectic is almost too obvious, but it really does fit, as evidenced by their diverse palette of indie folk, prog rock, spacey jams and noise freak-outs on display Thursday night at the SOhO Restaurant & Music Club in Santa Barbara.

The trio consists of Dana Janssen, Miles Seaton and Seth Olinsky, and was pared down from a quartet when Ryan Vanderhoof left a few years ago to live in a Buddhist Dharma center in the Midwest. Things started off with a Fripp-and-Eno-esque drone courtesy of processed cheap keyboards, leading into a tape recording of a woman singing in some unknown language.

It seemed to take the crowd a while to realize that the performance had actually begun, but when they did they were all on board for a cosmic sonic trip. The drone segued into the delicate “We All Will,” featuring guitar bowed by a drumstick and rough three-part harmonies.

The band then led the audience in clapping a “1 2-and and-4” rhythm for the intro to “River,” which proceeded in a standard guitar, bass, drums format but with less-standard spacey interludes.

A slow, distorted drum loop emerged from the previous song’s final atmospherics, and as it played Olinsky led the audience in a relaxation exercise, then instructed them to point their right hands in the air and sway back and forth to the mellow “Island” — the first of a string of songs from their new album S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT. This ended with an extended noisy freak-out that led into “AAA O A Way” and “So It Goes.”

Continuing the sequencing of the new album and with a guest appearance by guitarist Steve Marion and amazing drummer Mike Duncan from openers Delicate Steve, the band launched into “Another Sky,” which they stretched out to epic proportions with a sing-along, a visit into the audience and some mesmerizing tribal drumming. Definitely a show highlight.

Next up were the more subdued tracks “The Meek Warrior” and “Crickets,” followed by the set-closing rocker “Silly Bears,” which has a Sleigh Bells-like riff and more three-part harmonies. As an encore, after a delightfully noisy freak-out, the band closed with the proggy “Light Emerges.”

It was Akron/Family’s first Santa Barbara show, and this reviewer hopes their cosmic journey makes it back to these parts soon.

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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