Larvae: Dead Weight
Ad Noiseam

Given the cover concept and song titles like “Banjos & Brimstone,” a Western theme of sorts seems to pervade Larvae's second album Dead Weight but, in this case, it serves as little more than a springboard for the group's fecund imagination. The 12-song collection clearly demonstrates that group members Matthew Jeanes, Christopher Burnett, and Bryan Meng have more up its collective sleeve than thunderous electronic beatmaking, a fact intimated by the guitars and guest vocalists (Hope For Agoldensummer, Jessica Bailiff, Shadowhuntaz, Scalper) that grace a number of songs. More than a year in the making, Dead Weight turns out to be a marvelously eclectic and sometimes introspective bridge connecting acoustic and electronic realms, with spotlights given to aggressive hip-hop, electronica, folk, trip-hop, and shoegaze.

The disc is bookended by relatively aggressive tracks: the marvelous, shape-shifting opener, “Banjos & Brimstone” segues between raucous beat-based episodes and bucolic dreaminess, all of it punctuated by the enraged railing of a backwoods old-timer, while furious drum & bass rumble topples buildings in the closer “The Logical End.” But many surprises emerge in between: traces of dancehall and dubstep surface in the otherwise insistently funky “Warding,” Non (Shadowhuntaz) fires verbal bullets in the grimy “Nation of Bling,” its skittish beats as memorable as its simple but haunting synth motif, and Scalper (2nd Gen) adds his voice to the chiming sing-song whirr'n'click of “Art of War.” On a more languorous tip, Bailiff's creamy voice floats through “Telecast” and cascades throughout “Thanks for playing,” while Hope For Agoldensummer's vocalizing enhances the trip-hop-shoegaze of “Airplanes.” Dead Weight ultimately impresses as an intimate and sincere self-portrait that, in its panoramic stylistic scope, reveals Larvae to be a serious artistic force indeed.

October 2006