For a band that rests so comfortably on the brown note, there’s surprisingly little bullshit to what Akris do. On their self-titled Domestic Genocide Records debut, the Virginia bass/drum two-piece proffer sludge that ranges from unrepentantly abrasive punk-derived aggression (hello, “Unidentified”) to languid stoner nod topped with harmonized vocals (hello, “Riverbed”). At the fore is bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg, whose varied approach and blanket of low-end tonal gorgeousness drives the band along with drummer Sam Lohman, and whether she’s cleanly hitting notes in the slow-churning “Suffocate” or screaming in layers on the raging push that emerges within the earlier “Profit,” her leading role is never really relinquished. It would be easy for Akris to fall in a trap of samey-sounding tracks of the course of the album’s hour-long runtime, but though it’s Goldberg and Lohman for the duration — Ron “Fezz” McGinnis of Admiral Browning/Pale Divine also guests on the 12-minute “Vomit Within” — the record wants neither for sonic nor structural variety.
There’s a tension, however, that remains consistent throughout the songs, and whether they’re raging or subdued or somewhere between the two, Akris — who recorded Akris with the venerable Chris Kozlowski at his Polar Bear Lair Studio — always seem to maintain a gut-tightening vibe that coincides with the emotionality on display in Goldberg‘s lyrics. Working around the lines “Fighter pilot/Why’d you do it?” opening cut “Fighter Pilot” holds a sense of melody even as the bass pushes air like it’s trying to collapse a lung, vague notions of ’90s-style riot grrrl defiance coming through in the vocals. Since they’re essentially a rhythm section, that Goldberg and Lohman would execute quick time-changes isn’t necessarily a surprise, but shifts in pace like that of “Row of Lights” go a long way especially when the arrangements are so elemental. Likewise, where “Unidentified” bludgeons at a straight-ahead blister and offers no relief, the turning mood present in “Riverbed” and longer pieces like “Brown” (7:19) and “Vomit Within” — or even closer “Part of Me,” which taps out after seven minutes to leave room for an engagingly melodic hidden track — speak of a dynamic at work that’s all the more difficult to realize with so little wriggle room in the arrangements.
Multiple tours over the last couple years (they played SHoD in 2012) have tightened this material, some of which was also included on Akris‘ 2011 live demo, and though Lohman has left the band since the self-titled was finished and been replaced by Cheyka Bessid, harkening back to Goldberg‘s days scouring the NYC underground in her previous duo, Aquila, the album still gives an excellent display of the band’s craft and their aesthetic, which says nearly as much in its rawness as it does in its lyrics. If you listen to it for nothing other than the bass tone, you’re going to get what you came for.
Ahead of the release next Tuesday, I have the pleasure of hosting a full-stream of Akris‘ Akris. Please find it on the player below and enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Akris is set for release Sept. 24, 2013, on Domestic Genocide. Pre-orders can be placed now.Akris, Akris self-titled, Domestic Genocide Records, self-titled, Virginia