Predator or Prey

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Predator or Prey?, the third Larval CD and the group's second release on Knitting Factory Records, is a characteristically solid effort that continues in the direction set by Larval 2. The band's best tunes are designed like puzzles, fitting ostinatos, short riffs, choppy chords and blasts of noise together into a single dense mass while still retaining the sharpness and clarity of each individual instrument. "One Last Fight" (misprinted on the CD sleeve as "One Last Flight") has the classic large-group Larval sound, with honking sax and crunching guitars in crazy counterpoint leading into a sustained barrage of high-distortion strumming that makes Robert Fripp on King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic sound almost mild by comparison. Toby Summerfield twists the formula a bit toward jazz on his other tune "The Crippled Dance," another CD highlight. "The Entity, an eerie and dissonant dirge from the first Larval CD on the Avant label, reappears here as "The Entity Returns" with chamberesque strings and a theremin-like vocal by classically trained soprano Tamara Lehew-Whitty. The tune shows up again at the conclusion of Predator or Prey? in Detroit techno star Carl Craig's even scarier remix, stripped down, pitched lower and featuring percussive effects sounding like ricocheting gunshots. In another unexpected move, the band presents the Dave Mann-Bob Hilliard tune "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" as a darkly ominous lullaby, sung dissolutely by Brovold with undercurrents of processed guitar noise straight out of Fripp and Eno territory. Needless to say, this is not the Sinatra version. Hands down, Larval is one of the best rock bands to ever come out of Detroit. Larval's relentless drive and artful noise would seem perfectly pitched for Motor City sensibilities and in an earlier time; circa MC5 and Stooges, the group might have had a huge following rather than cult status in Southeastern Michigan. These days, Larval has cranked out Predator or Prey? and its other high-intensity CDs thanks largely to the persistance of Bill Brovold, who has kept several versions of the band together through sheer force of will and chutzpah. The rock music world is better for his efforts.

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