(Cuneiform)

I had met Larval for the first time in 2003, by listening to their “Obedience” on this same label. Yet, Bill Brovold’s band is active since 1995, having released albums for the Avant and Knitting Factory labels. At first they were a noise-oriented entity, but their musical range has become surprisingly variegated with the passage of time, mixing known and unknown elements in a kind of descriptive action that moves through dissonant repetition and hardnosed riffs to find more serene openings in compositions that at times would be acceptable even as a TV special soundtrack (check “Scottish blood”). Brovold, who among other collaborations has played with the Rhys Chatham Ensemble (he even thanks him for “kicking me out of his band so I would start my own”), had a shocking experience right after the release of “Obedience”, suffering five heart attacks in a year’s span. The new record’s title obviously refers to his struggle, but the music is still full of energy while remaining extremely clear in every component. I don’t agree with several of the comparisons that are often used for Larval, especially the ones linking them to Glenn Branca and the vastly overrated Godspeed You! Black Emperor, while indeed a King Crimson-ish attitude is perceivable, especially in the second disc of this set. The two CDs (one studio, one live containing the “best energy performances” according to the leader) demonstrate instead that the band can superimpose genres and atmospheres without pain: the title track’s “epic movie” aura constantly underlined by boiling saturated guitars blathering all over the place, or the great “minimal noir” of “The 300-pound nurse”. In the live disc, the musicians light their fuse more often, the material repeatedly reaching an intense apex of emotional fury and smoking corporeal abandon (“Childish delusion”, Alpha Thejone”). When all is said and done, Larval can be considered an “almost pure” rock ensemble in their spirit, in which even difficulty becomes easily assimilable thanks to the perfect dosage of their instrumental ingredients. A classic case of “play loud!”

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