Larman Clamor is throwing a carnival. More of a street fair, really. You’ll find the sky is tinted a greenish yellow watercolor, the air is tepid and wet with humidity, bugs come in swarms, and later, a parade of children on the backs of reptiles will come out of the swamp and march down the crossroad.
Welcome to Alligator Heart.
The third Larman Clamor full-length, Alligator Heart follows on the heels of 2012’s Frogs, 2011’s Altars to Turn Blood and that same year’s debut self-titled EP. It is the most accomplished release to date from the solo-project of Alexander von Wieding – also illustrator for Karma to Burn, Wo Fat, Monster Magnet, Freedom Hawk, Infernal Overdrive and countless others – and like its predecessors, it masterfully captures a swamp-boogie atmosphere, updating blues and rock traditions with a down-home psychedelia that’s alternately creeping and malevolent and raising its hands in upbeat testimony. Based in Hamburg and begun in 2008, Larman Clamor pays a heavy debt to Delta blues (John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred MacDowell), but has never sounded so much like itself as on Alligator Heart.
Where Frogs reveled in its post-Tom Waits weirdness and von Wieding’s gravelly vocals, Alligator Heart strips away some of the extras to get at Larman Clamor’s muddy, folkish heart. Short ditties like “Banshee w’Me,” “Done No Good” and “I’m Buildin’ Ruins” stomp and clang as ever, but with surprisingly ripe hooks, and atmospheric pieces like “Sambucus Nigra” and the 16 Horsepower-style banjo echo of “Crow on a Wagon Wheel” show a side of Larman Clamor that’s able to make a case as much with minimalism as with an onslaught of varied elements. Rounding out with “Aether Bound I – Scorched Earth” and “Aether Bound II – Dust & Ghost,” Alligator Heart ultimately shows von Wieding’s most accomplished songwriting to date, and that as he pushes further away from the shore to get swept up in that river’s current, the results are all the more rewarding.
Blending acoustic and electric guitar, simple drums and throaty vocals, Larman Clamor presents an alternate view of tradition and a new take on its own approach. More and more, there’s nothing else that sounds quite like it.
So while you wait on the corner of that crossroad for the parade to go by, just make sure you keep a count of all your fingers. Alligator Heart has a bite with some mean teeth.
For fans of: R.L. Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Tom Waits, Left Lane Cruiser, Robert Johnson, Led Zeppelin, The Might Could, ZZ Top
(Written by JJ Koczan)