Larvae: Loss Leader
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Loss Leader, Larvae's third full-length release, is composed of two EPs, Turning Around and Monster Music 2, and frankly sounds like it. In contrast to the cohesiveness of the group's previous album, 2006's Dead Weight, Loss Leader is noticeably bifurcated, evidencing as it does a marked change in tone and style from its opening four tracks to its concluding four. On this go-round, Larvae is for all intents and purposes Matthew Jeanes who's credited with writing, performing, and producing all of the material with one exception (“Giftshop,” credited to Jeanes and Christopher Burnett).

Nuanced, dramatic, and aggressive, the material in the first half could be characterized as post-rock, given the emphasis on emotional build-ups and arrangements of guitars, keyboards, bass, and drums. “Turning Around” anchors melancholy keyboard melodies with heavy and subtly funky beat patterns, while buzz-saw guitars and aggressive drumming occupy the front-line in “Giftshop” and shoegaze guitar washes and crisp beat patterns do the same in “Dischord.” If “Heavy” sounds at all reminiscent of Dead Weight, it should as it was laid down during that album's sessions.

As stated, Loss Leader's second half, Monster Music 2 (the sequel to the very first Larvae EP, 2003's Monster Music), pushes the group's sound into a dramatically different direction, specifically something closer in spirit to dubstep than post-rock. Ignore the silly voiceover that appears in “Monster Zero” and instead focus on the hard-hitting beatsmithing that fuels the song's pounding charge. “Megalon” couples an elegant piano melody with viral bass swarm and lethal beats while the mix of shoegaze and dubstep in “Oxygen Destroyer” comes close to fusing the album's two sensibilities into one. Taken on its own terms, Loss Leader's material is solid enough but, with the two EPs totaling a modest thirty-eight minutes, the album feels less like a true follow-up to the more ambitious Dead Weight than a stopgap designed to appease Larvae devotees until the next fully-formed work appears.

March 2009