Larkin Grimm: Parplar

Andrew Carver |

Grimm's motivating spirit comes from a dark, strange place

Larkin Grimm is another find by Swans/Angels of Light/Young Gods records main man Michael Gira. 'Parplar' is her third album after a pair for the Secret Eye label that stretch out the folk music idiom to bleak and unusual places.

Unlike Akron/Family and Devendra Banhart, Gira's other notable discoveries, but much like the man himself, Grimm's motivating spirit comes from a dark, strange place.

Sometimes morose, sometimes jovial, the music is heavily repetitious, as are the lyrics, but the effect is more meditative than tedious. It owes a heavy debt to the 'old weird America' documented on Harry Smith's 'Anthology of American Music'. In addition to Grimm's own fingerpicking, a host of Brooklyn musicians help out, including some of Angels of Light and Old Time Relijun.

Grimm stakes out a fair piece of her ground on the first two numbers.

As 'Parplar' begins, Grimm stretches out the question "Who told you you're going to be all right?" to a slow crawl over a descending three-note riff, while mournful violins stretch out below her bitter intonation of the song's
title: "They were wrong."

The brisk gallop of 'Ride That Cyclone' lures the listener in with a more upbeat tone, drawing to a small degree on the bounce of Balkan brass music, but it's a rough ride, with broken bones lurking in the lyrics.

For maximum oddity, there's 'Dominican Rum', a twisted updated barroom tune:
³You're going to die anyway, so let me kill you nice!² a giddy Grimm demands while regaling the listener with tales of silicone breasts, nuclear war, glowing black babies, hungry panthers and nasty birth control side effects.

Sometimes the sound is peculiarly twee and lo-fi, as on the high-pitched sing-song of 'Mina Minou', on other occasions it's lushly accented with cello and backing vocals as on 'Durge'.

Grimm keeps the album together with her steely voice ­ in an era dominated by warbling songbirds, Grimm almost always keeps dead steady, though she d's allow it to waver a bit while regaling a lost lover with the wish that he's ³suffering and lost² in the final track, 'Hope for the Hopeless'.

It's a peculiarly enchanting album which offers one of the most successful updates of 'old-timey music' on offer today.