19 May 2015

Crown Larks "Blood Dancer"

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

Chicago’s noisemakers, Crown Larks – imbued with their head quarter’s diverse musical history – manage to wrangle punk, avant-garde jazz and improvisation into a searing swath of tumultuous free rock. It’s all very balanced, interweaving languid interlude with chaotic upswings. Following their auspicious 2013 EP, “Catalytic Conversion,” new album “Blood Dancer” – their first full length release which came out earlier this year – expands on the band’s already eclectic repertoire. Noisy, unpredictable and sometimes very strange, “Blood Dancer” won’t be leaving my rotation for a long time.

When an album’s instrumentation includes – besides the typical piano, drums, guitar, bass – synth, pedals, flugelhorn, flute, trumpet clarinet, and saxophone (and many more, as well as “sleep machine” and “party favor”), you can’t really be sure what you’re getting into with it. But, for Crown Larks, the tone is set immediately with “Gambian Blue Wave,” a tightly played polyrhythmic take that switches from snappy groove to lugubrious, feedback drenched exploration – where those slow moving horns feel at home – very easily. This is a band that knows its sound incredibly well; nothing is overdone, nothing is flashy. Each song, though, is arranged perfectly, and each instrument given its place in the complex mesh of sound. Following track, “The Timebound Bloos,” showcases another side of Crown Larks: saxophone freak out over noisy punk chords.

Crown Larks’ closing track, “Overgrown,” falls into that wonderful trend: a slow burning, somewhat mellow end. It’s a highlight that revisits many of the album’s best moments, swinging from highs and lows over its full eight minutes. To end a great album, “Overgrown” is the final word and certainly a promise.

There’s a lot to love about these seven songs, especially if, like me, you still play Come’s “11:11” or Sonic Youth’s “Sister” fairly regularly. Jack Bouboushian’s vocal quality is commanding while recalling the unpolished and unaffected delivery of noise(y) rock’s legends and DIY aficionados. Beyond that, as a whole, the album shares arrangement and stylistic qualities with the hey-day of art rock’s best records. Perhaps it’s simply the band’s dedication to the scene, their recording processes, or their politics (see their recent interview in Impose, link below) that recall, too, for me those fine days.

Both Crown Larks records are available to stream or buy on their Bandcamp page for a “name your price” cost as well as on cassette and CD. “Blood Dancer” is available on vinyl too. There are a few dates left to their extensive tour. Check them out live if you can.

My highest recommendation on this one.

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