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Issue Date: May 2010 Issue

Aural Mystery

Akron's Trouble Books merges synthesizers, simple lyrics and do-it-yourself home recording into a strange, satisfying mix.

Kristin Majcher

They've performed at boat parties in France and clubs in Berlin and Madrid, but Keith Freund and Linda Lejsovka still record their adventurous, ambient-pop music at the Highland Square apartment they call home.

The Akron-based husband-and-wife duo known as Trouble Books launched their experimental music group five years ago when they first used a series of effects pedals to manipulate guitar, cello, bass, drums, synthesizer and clarinet into ethereal electronic landscapes and captured them on an eight-track cassette recorder. Those sessions ultimately grew into the band's first full-length album, The United Colors of Trouble Books.

The mix of droning yet melodic music and simple vocals garnered attention from National Public Radio and led to a deal with Luxembourg-based Own Records for international distribution. Trouble Books released its second full-length album, Gathered Tones, in March.

"If an alien listened to pop music in the last 50 years, he'd think that life is filled with constant falling in love, breaking up or obsessing about death," jokes Freund, who writes about seemingly mundane occurrences: the panic of accidentally leaving a space heater running unattended, the sounds of street sweepers in the early morning or walking past the LED lights of a massive new parking garage.

It may seem strange subject matter, but when accompanied by a glittering sea of synth swooshes, daily life becomes a dreamscape. "Our music is like a cozy day inside some super strange house," Freund says.

He and Lejsovka have also been helping other Akron musicians embrace a do-it-yourself approach to recording. The couple and about 10 friends in the neighborhood collaborate on one another's music projects, which are released by Trouble Books' upstart independent label, Bark and Hiss Records.

"In Akron, you have this space to do whatever you want," Freund says. "It's small enough where people really encourage each other."

In Tune

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