Akron, "Voyage of Discovery"
Akron's one-man debut nods to influences such as Delia Derbyshire and Joe Meek but cannot begin to approach the originality or spirit of experiment of those legends. Yet the best of these pieces are odd exotic bleeping echoes which did transport me to other worlds, just perhaps not the ones intended.
Akron is a new name to me and there is enough charm in this album to ensure I will seek future releases. The title, however, Voyage of Exploration points to space travel, rather than to a more natural terrain for this music. This is inner space music, more reflective of progress in other scientific technologies, such as the invention of the microscope and the digital circuit, which have revealed inner worlds while igniting a revolution in art and spirituality every bit as inspiring as that which has resulted in space flights and, well, rocket science.
So, beyond the obvious references to Meek, sci-fi, and lounge-exotica, Akron's pieces are well suited to a miniature aesthetic as opposed to a macro one. Digital and cellular worlds come to mind, of genome topography, video games, and popular culture as in the film Fantastic Voyage, wherein a crew (including Raquel Welch) shrunk to .1 microns (or 250,000 times smaller than her 5'6 stature) board a submarine designed at the C.M.D.F. (Combined Miniaturized Deterrent Forces) facility and are injected into a human patient with one hour to remove a life-threatening clot. Certainly the album could use more instrumental variety. If these are supposed to be nine new worlds then they seem remarkably similar to 1970s episodes of Dr Who; in that these distant planets all start to resemble a couple of quarries just outside London. In fairness, I expect Akron's budget is not much more than the BBC's for those shows, but imagination costs nothing. I don't want to travel to any planet depicted in such unimaginative titles as "Rabbits in Orbit" and "Frog War Chant."
The aspect of exploration of a digital world made sense to me when playing the final track in my car while transporting some high school art students. I had already decided this mournful piece was my favorite, before i knew that it was called "Funeral for Euclid." As we drove one of the students suddenly asked what it was and announced:
"It sounds like music from a video game in the middle of a quest when you've just defeated a mid-level boss of evil and you're walking out of town with lots of gifts and bonuses but it's bittersweet because one of your friends has been killed in a cut-out scene."
This is not a poor record, but after a few listens I began to feel I was in the title story from David Eagleman's Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlife. In that tale we live our life over again but "all the moments that share a quality are grouped together. You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet." I'm not sure what activity is suggested by, or could be soundtracked by, Voyage of Exploration, but it may be slicing bread or washing hair. Something mildly pleasant but not ecstatic or very exciting. And that figure for sex is depressingly low now I look at it.