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Larsen and Friends, "ABECEDA"

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cover imageLarsen have always been at odds with most of their contemporaries, almost mythical stories about getting signed to Young God Records, a tribute album to Autechre that features no computers and no obvious references to the band or their music and all sorts of strange rumours abounding about the members of the group. However, the live album/DVD ABECEDA sees them cement their reputation as serious artists (minus any negativity that concept might carry with it). ABECEDA is a well-thought out concept delivered with care and finesse by Larsen and their friends. Musically it is as strong as any of their previous efforts and visually it stands out on its own.



Despite Larsen expanding to the size of a small orchestra for the occasion, the overall sound that they have developed over the years remains intact, all their collaborators staying true to the group's aural aesthetic. The set begins with wind-like drones care of Jóhann Jóhannsson on laptop. From here, the familiar slowly plucked guitar, glockenspiel and hypnotic rhythms of Larsen weave in and out for an hour. David Tibet sounds as comfortable here as he has ever sounded, his words an homage to Karel Teige's Alphabeth, 1926 rather than a direct translation. The addition of Baby Dee and the return of Julia Kent to Larsen's ranks works a treat, both artists playing sympathetically to the band. Of particular merit is Dee's piano playing later on in the performance, a fragile and haunting melody that sings through the mix.

As beautiful as the music is, it is the visuals that accompany ABECEDA that is most impressive. The sleeve and slipcase combine to make a very attractive, elegant package; the monochrome exterior opening up to reveal color stills from the DVD and Tibet's text. The DVD itself is a combination of delicately shot live performance with a video collage of a dancer interpreting letters of the alphabet with her body and layers of typography complimenting and supporting her movements. With Larsen's music and Tibet's vocals (which are sporadically spaced throughout the performance), the visuals become sublime. Teige's original Alphabeth was produced as a book (and reproduced as a slideshow on the DVD) but the effect of combining a film collage with a dancer on stage brings the concept fully alive, letters not being simple symbols isolated and unmoving on a page but constantly shifting characters bringing language to life. This incorporation movement also acts as a nod to Italy's Futurism, ABECEDA sitting comfortably next to the sculptures of Boccioni as celebrations of the human body in motion.

Needless to say, this is a mesmerising release. Everything about ABECEDA is perfect: the production is crystal clear and the DVD is masterfully cut. It has been most definitely worth the couple of months delay in its manufacture, some good things come to those who wait. With any luck Larsen and Friends will tour this more than the handful of dates that they have played/will imminently play. It is rare to find an album that is so wonderfully complete feeling, every aspect of the release getting all the attention needed lavished on it to make ABECEDA the jewel in Larsen's crown. In all honesty, I doubt that they could have gone into the studio and made a better album. Now, to dive into ABECEDA all over again.




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