Tales of brown-leafed mystery. Unseen threats lurking in high weeds. Something not quite human, not quite there, out of some other place. Feet stomping on wood porches. This is all familiar terrain for Larman Clamor’s blues, but with Beetle Crown & Steel Wand, it’s just another piece in an increasingly complicated puzzle of psychedelic experimentation.
It is the fourth Larman Clamor full-length in three years, the prolific heart of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/ artist Alexander von Wieding proving relentless in its creativity, and while Beetle Crown & Steel Wand fits in line with 2013’s Alligator Heart, 2012’s Frogs, 2011’s Altars to Turn Blood and the preceding 2011 selftitled debut EP, no question it’s also the next step in an ongoing evolution of von Wieding’s songwriting. Each Larman Clamor outing has developed from the last, and Beetle Crown & Steel Wand is no exception. It is von Wieding’s most rhythmic, most expansive statement to date.
One can hear it in the familiar dirt boogie of “My Lil’ Ghost”, sure – how comfortable von Wieding sounds in this form compared to just two years ago (he’s had plenty of practice) – but where Beetle Crown & Steel Wand really distinguishes itself is in the arrangements. In short movements like “Eggs in the Sand” and “Tangerine Nightfall” and the album’s apex, “Her Majesty, the Mountain”, von Wieding pushes Larman Clamor into psychedelic spaces more than he ever has, and particularly in the case of the latter, into heavier tonal weight than he’s ever conjured before. Larman Clamor doesn’t just sound like a solo-project here, but a full band.
At the same time, the opening title-track offers layers of percussive sway, “We Shine Alright” ticks away on pots and pans and jangling chains, and “Bleak Heart’s Night Waltz” taps into forgotten woodsman tribalisms. Von Wieding takes us far away from past minimalism on “Caravan of Ghouls”, with a full, ritualized sound, and could it be that he’s presenting us with a companion for Larman in “Aurora Snarling”? It seems too early to speculate, but if Aurora is another character in Larman’s dizzying tale, she’s bound to show up again.
What’s certain is that Beetle Crown & Steel Wand is Larman Clamor’s farthest-ranging album yet. Von Wieding is still loyal to the muddy waters from which the project first emerged, but in no way is he restrained by them, and if the last couple years have proved anything, it’s that this development is only going to keep moving forward. Now that Larman Clamor is out of the swamps, it seems more and more like it can go just about anywhere.
(JJ Koczan / The Obelisk.net)
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