Larkin Grimm - "Harpoon"
(Secret Eye 2005, AB-OC-18)
From Aural Innovations #33 (March 2006)
It's not a surprise that Larkin Grimm plays such a rich and eccentric style of folk music. She was born on a Memphis commune and grew up with a musical family of singers and fiddlers in the foothills of the Appalachians. That's not to say that one needs that kind of background to produce this kind of music, but I'm sure it helps. But on Harpoon, her debut album, Larkin recasts the traditional in a more modern context, with even a touch of the psychedelic about it. Buffy St. Marie comes to mind. The deep-layered vocals are also reminiscent of some of Jane Siberry's work, though with a much more purely acoustic slant to the music itself.
Larkin Grimm creates swirling acoustic textures with primarily dulcimer and guitar, but accentuates those with bells and drums all in service though to her extraordinary multi-layered vocals. The music is often dark, sometimes with a rhythmic structure to it, like the primal drum and chant of Going Out or the haunting One Hundred Men. Other pieces have a somewhat loose, freeform messiness to them at times, as on the track Patch It Up, but it's still tied together nicely by Larkin's call and response style vocals. Other times, the instrumentation is sparse, more a touch of atmosphere to her singing as on I Am Eating Your Deathly Dreams or even just pure vocals, as on Harpoon Baptism, which layers singing, multi-part harmonies, spoken word and background chanting (not to mention weird, shrieking laughter!) into a complex, bewitching mix of sounds. Some pieces are spaceier and more psychedelic in nature, others, are more traditional folk-pop style like the strangely sad yet uplifting Don't Come Down, Darkness, or the intriguing Pigeons (which lyrically juxtaposes grisly images of being eaten by various creatures with the freedom felt in ending a bad relationship). There's a quiet, lo-fi feel to the proceedings, with background sounds of footfalls, scratches, breaths, and other imperfections that add life, warmth and a certain homespun charm to the music.
Don't get the idea, however, that Larkin Grimm can be easily categorized or pigeonholed into the current trend of confessional acoustic folk-pop female singer/songwriters. Hers is a music that is much more earthy, yet at the same time, strangely mythic and mysterious in nature too. There's a quiet savagery to her sound, the fierce yet melancholy ancient soul inhabiting the modern body. This is where the music of Larkin Grimm exists.
For more information you can visit the Larkin Grimm web site at: http://www.larkingrimm.com.
Visit the Secret Eye web site at: http://www.secreteye.org.
Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald