Larsen | Rever | Review

Aquarius Records

The story of how this record came to be is almost impossible to believe

yet Michael Gira (Angels of Light / Swans) seems like a reliable enough source that it could in fact be true. Beginning sometime last year, Gira started receiving a series of arcane CD-Rs from the Italian collective / hermetic cult that simply labeled themselves as Larsen. The music within was a diverse collection of sounds that in Gira's words included "a whispered song, accompanied by a distant accordion, as if playing in the next room, or a drone of unknown origin, or a short burst of percussive chaos ­ sometimes just a single sound or noise, a scraping sound, as if someone were slowly etching a piece of rusted metal with a blade of some sort, or the sound of saliva working in the mouth." The last package that he received did not include a CD-R, but a handsome amount of money, a plane ticket to Italy, and a request for his presence to produce an album for Larsen. Intrigued by the music he had heard up until then, Gira took Larsen up on their offer. Once in Italy, Gira was never allowed to see the band who had situated themselves in the recording studio behind a screen. He described their actions as often emerging as if part of some ceremonial rite, but the liturgical music for these rites have all of the trappings of a band who are far more interested in Sonic Youth than the archetypes of ceremonial musics. Hypnotic, interlocking math rock grooves pulse from forceful minor-key guitar chords, counterpointed with accordians, trumpet blurts, mechanical tape whirrings, tectonic rumbles, and other incredibly rich textural elements. The resulting album is a stunning collection of tense musical constructions that have been gilded with a fragile sadness, recalling the likes of recent Unwound, Blonde Redhead, Ulan Bator (another exceptional band produced by Michael Gira), and bits of This Heat and fellow weirdo Italians the Starfuckers.

The one qualm with the album is on how the record ends. It has been a longstanding belief of mine that Sonic Youth's "Daydream Nation" should have ended with the graceful haze of "Hyperstation" and done away with the unnecessary exclamation of "Eliminator, Jr." Similarly, Larsen ends "Rever" badly, as a beautifully repetitive groove simply cuts out, making you wonder if California is returning to the days of rolling blackouts. If only every record had one thing wrong with it instead of eighty-eleven problems, and in spite of that one misgiving, this is one of the best records we have heard in quite a while.