Larsen B - Musketeer

A very rural sounding record, reflecting the surroundings that gave it birth.

Larsen B can, we expect, lay claim to being pop music’s favourite ice shelf. Collapsing in 2002, British Sea Power wrote a song chronicling it on their 2005 album Open Season in order to challenge their songwriting skills. Now three young lads from Heartfordshire (Wheathampstead to be precise) have gone one stage further and named their entire band after said shelf, leaving Larsen B achieving a level of fame that most frozen masses of water can only dream about.

On a more serious and more relevant note, there’s a comparison that needs to be got out of the way. Fleet Foxes. Aside from the penchant for appropriating old paintings for their artwork (in this case 1834s ‘The Peaceable Kingdom’ by Edward Hicks) and being a part of the very broad church that is contemporary folk there is very little to bind the two. A more accurate line to Larsen B can be drawn from some of their British oddball contemporaries: The Coral or The Bees at their most whimsical, British Sea Power’s slower moments and (when they break out the banjo) Mumford & Sons.

Sadly we can see the argument for ‘Musketeer’, the group’s debut album (following on from some low key EP releases) making little sense in the big city. It is a very rural sounding record, reflecting the surroundings that gave it birth, echoing the feel and pace of village life. But this fact is OK. Better than OK actually. The harsh concrete sounds of urbanity, its sodium lights, underpasses, traffic and industrial estates is catered to all too well right now by the more ambient end of dubstep. Although you could well say that there’s more than a handful of UK folk releases around at the moment we would argue that there’s very little as genuine or as uncontrived as Larsen B.

‘The Gold Cup’ for instance is a real beauty, despite being one of the more conventionally instrumented songs on the LP. Smatterings of handclaps and a bar-room piano are almost forgotten, carried away as they are on the toe-tappable-along-to beat. It belies this songs merge length, for where too many contemporary folkies seem intent on milking each idea dry Larsen B dispense with each one as quickly as it hovers into view. ‘Down By The Sea’ even threatens to go into Queen for the odd second, before restraining itself into something akin to a rustic Arcade Fire.

Unlike many, ‘Musketeer’ doesn’t just glide past. Each song starts somewhere specific and always finishes somewhere different. Therefore each maintains a feel and a flavour whilst transporting the listener to the countryside. Your opinion on Larsen B will doubtlessly be decided on how rustic or urban you like your music. If it leans drastically to the former and you’re not afraid of the odd country sounding twang or graceful piano interludes then Larsen B are certainly ones to watch.

Oh, and their postman sings on ‘Kindling’. Which is worth mentioning we think.

Tags: Larsen B, Reviews, Album Reviews

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