by Bill Brovold and
Cuneiform Records, Silver Spring, MD,
2 Audio CDs, 5333"; 5947".
Cuneiform Rune 248/249
Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
The nine tracks of Surviving Death
are not quite mirror images of the 10
tracks of Alive Why?, but the titles
of the CDs at least suggest some
thematically affinity. Apart from their
musical consanguinity, they dont.
The titles are no more than a pun on the
recording circumstances. Alive Why?
is taken from four live concerts from
1999-2002 and 2006, and its roommate has
studio-recorded material. Together, the
diptych illustrates the Brovold-Larval
musical universe: so-called experimental
rock where individual technicity is all
but absent, where obstinate percussion
doesnt dominate, and where some
room is left for intimate melodic passages.
At times, one imagines to hear sixties
or early seventies pop in a late nineties
remake. Characteristic for this music
is the uncomplicated harmonic progression,
just a trifle more sophisticated than
ordinary guitar rock: simple, on the verge
The central piece of Surviving Death
has a sombre, apocalyptic atmosphere.
A single guitar plays a scrawly and squiggly
percutative solo line, changing places
with drums and keyboards against a symphonic
choir-like background at times reminiscent
of the Carmina Burana. One expects to
hear the Dies Irae theme to break through
at any time, but of course it doesnt.
This is rock music after all. The ostinato
of the squiggly distorted guitar alternatingly
comes to the foreground or moves to the
back. Quiet rags of melody, either by
solo instruments or ensembles, surface
but never seem to be able to chase the
ominous guitar away. Slowly the instrumental
texture gains some complexity as the whole
line up moves toward a climactic forte.
Quite predictably, the piece ends with
the heroically surviving solo
guitar. The second CD, Alive Why?,
offers no surprises. It is another illustration
of the wall-of-sound kind of rock of the
past 30 years.
Bill Brovold has been working with numerous
artists, ranging from John Zorn to Tom
Waits and Bjork. He founded Larval in
1995. The Detroit-based bands line
up has changed continuously over the years,
Brovolds need to realise his musical
ideas being the only constant.