Larsen B is an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Rhode Island that broke up in 2002; beloved of Boston drone-metallers 5ive and British Sea Power’s Yan, who proclaimed it his “favourite foremost coastal Antarctic ice shelf”, no less. Its watery plight was documented in Al Gore’s recent documentary An Inconvenient Truth, but London three-piece Larsen B don’t strike you as your average eco-warrior types.
Why the name, then? On the evidence of this six-track EP, a concept record about the recollections and regrets of the titular Cecil Element, it probably has something to do with memory; the notion that something previously thought of as part of an unchanging landscape could so easily be gone, lost to the oblivion of time’s ocean. Which sounds pretentious as fuck, but they put it better, on first track ’Red Indians And Witches’, a spectral, sepia-tinged beauty that ruminates on childhood’s invincibility through the eyes of an ailing old man: “Though it’s not the finish, it’s near enough to the line / Draw concentric circles in the sand to pass the time / Say, hold your finger to the sky / You can block out the sun, it’s oblivion to the naked eye”.
Like Sparklehorse, Larsen B’s cracked balladry walks a fine line between spare and embarrassingly slight, but demonstrates an unwavering ability to cut to the quick of a melody; songs to spirit you away gently rather than kick you in the pants. And if there’s nothing here as quietly rapturous as Linkous’ finest moments, they’re not far off. ‘Atlantis’, if anything, is an even more eloquently lyrical melody than the first track, judicious touches of strings and piano conveying tender regret at old wounds reopened. ‘Wonderland’ is quietly beguiling as tinkling wind chimes, while ‘Old Rope’ evokes old pictures left out in the sun with a tune that sounds like Wilco at their most laid-back and country-rocking.
One to play on those hungover afternoons when your head’s a muddle and your heart’s all full up.
7Alex Denney's Score