Larval's debut recording on the Cuneiform label occasionally bears a strong resemblance to the music of Godspeed You Black Emperor, although guitarist and group leader Bill Brovold has been involved in "new music" since the 1980s and served a five-year term with the Rhys Chatham Ensemble, questions of imitation are hardly relevant (if anything, Godspeed may have been influenced, albeit indirectly, by the pioneering massed guitar damage of Chatham, Glenn Branca, and the like). Brovold's latest edition of Larval consists of guitars, basses, drums, sax, cello, and violin, with Zeena Parkins doing a brief guest turn on harp, but Brovold's cavernous swamp guitar, thick with reverb, distortion, and harmonics, is often prominent in the mix. The opening track on the CD, "Last Ditch," is made up of cleverly layered, greasy blues licks that jockey for position, morphing in and out of focus as different tempos and rhythmic accents are superimposed one on top of the other. It's an interesting piece of work. But the most remarkable track is the last, "One Day I Just Kept On Walking," which uses three chords, the entrance of a simple drum pattern at the eight-minute mark (and then, about a minute later, an actual chord change!) to create an almost unbearable amount of tension and drama. As this piece nears its climax, Brovold's guitar starts to sound like Link Wray in the throes of a nervous breakdown, and his playing has a physicality to it that reaches right through the speakers (or earphones) and demands the listener's total attention. Another piece, "Something Terrible Is About to Happen," more than lives up to its title, with an unresolved six-note pattern modulated back and forth between two key signatures, gathering instrumental density as it builds, like an avalanche rolling down a mountain slope. "When Bullet Meets Flesh," in spite of its grisly title, has a slightly more refined, Gothic chamber music quality (showing that Larval is capable of finesse), while the minimalist, profoundly melancholy "Her Last Good Day" displays Brovold's lyrical side and communicates a post-rock ambience worthy of Tortoise. The five pieces on the CD average approximately ten minutes in length, and all of them are allowed to develop at their own pace. A salute to Brovold and Larval for creating powerful, emotional music that succeeds in establishing their own distinct creative niche. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by William Tilland