Larvae - Exit Strategy [Ad Noiseam - 2012]For nearly a decade, the Ad Noiseam label has been the home of and a nurturing force behind the Larvae act (Matt Jeanes). Stretching back to the release of their initial full-length in 2005, Larvae have slowly moved away from a hard downtempo style (somewhat similar to the later Gridlock records) into their present excursions into combining minimal beat music with pristine, studio-centered outsider post rock-isms.
This isn’t to say there is any evidence to support any who would decry this act’s transition as ‘bandwagon’ move, however, as the main objectives of the project are still met, albeit through different means. Throughout its discography, Larvae remains committed to crafting its own specific and idiosyncratic mood: an often serious, cinematic and emotional headspace. Whether it is realized with distorted breakbeats (as on the Fashion Victim album), dubby bass (Dead Weight full-length), 8-bit synth (Empire EP) or wafting clean guitar tones (on the Loss Leader album) is simply a matter of stylization.
It is this transition toward a more guitar-based sound (dabbled with on the preceding release Loss Leader) which has taken center stage on this newest work Exit Strategy. The combination of Larvae’s laid-back percussive expertise is a perfect vehicle to drive the warm, quasi-western reverberations (no doubt influenced by Austin, Texas where it was written and recorded). One of the elements most readily noticeable about Exit Strategy is the strong melodic content and its novel combination with electronically sequenced percussion which is not often found in the post-rock context. On preceding records, the programmed/ processed elements of the Larvae sound had initially provided most of the listening focus, but here they have been repurposed into supporting the more traditional instruments. Exit Strategy finds Larvae at its most stripped down and also most successful in delivering the all-important mood. This is a singular sound captured by Jeanes although other surprises are also on hand: slow-motion reggae skanking on Remarkable; a cinematic dubscape spills out on The Switch; even the more prototypical synthesizers return late in the album. Despite these varied traits, the digital trickery still remains, although subtly, as evidenced by the grinding fractalization of the guitar line in contrast with the ambient qualities in Vows & Promises. Make no mistake, though, that Exit Strategy cannot be written off as “west/tronica” or some similar nonsense.
This is easily Jeanes’ most competent and unique record to date. It is interesting to note the payoff that risky (unconventional) choices make in constructing an album such as Exit Strategy. In the fickle world of flavor-of-the minute beat-centered music (often subjected to a download & discard disposability), it is the producers who choose a less-beaten path that are vital to warding off stagnation for the genre as a whole. It is refreshing to see Larvae choose this course, and in listening to Exit Strategy one could imagine a world where dubstep doesn’t even exist. Furthermore, Jeanes may engender listeners of post-rock to expand their appreciation of all things electronic, and to enlighten jaded beat junkies to explore sounds which employ the use of “real” instruments