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"Loss Leader Review"

Loss Leader finds Atlanta's perennial lo-fi beat alchemist Larvae bastardizing IDM with washes of melody, serenity and atmosphere. Originally intended as two EPs, the first half (Turning Around) recalls the guitar-minded textures of 2006's Dead Weight. The title track cleanses the mental palette with an introspective drone and scattered percussive drips that bleed into the head-nod waltz of "Gift Shop." Slow tempos drive the balance between murk and internal logic. Monster Music 2 occupies the second half with dark mashups of Godzilla samples and Jurassic bass squalls. Post-industrial rhythms turn on a dime in "Gigan and the Mysterians" and "Oxygen Destroyer" brings ominous closure. Despite their differences, both halves connect in a fluid motion of intelligent design best consumed in one monstrous swoop. 4 stars - Creative Loafing

"Larvae : The Loss Leader"

(October 2009) AT the heart of Larvae are the concepts and compositions of Atlanta, GA based Matthew Jeanes, who -- like his music, makes a rather imposing first impression. However, spend any time with Matt and you quickly realize he is a warm and inspired person; a fan of comic book heroes, sci-fi movies, soccer and badass music. He's not afraid to speak his mind about anything, he's honest, lives cleanly and makes incredible music that leaves people who have dedicated their life to the craft (like me) flabbergasted by the level of quality in his work.

I've known Matt for about five or six years now, and I've had the opportunity and pleasure to work with him both in the studio and on stage. So, when Igloo gave me the job of reviewing his latest release, Loss Leader. I was stoked, to say the least.

However, I soon came to realize that there was no way for me to adequately review Loss Leader with any sort of objective voice, since I'm a fan of Larvae and a friend of Matt. I came to the conclusion that the best thing for me to do would be to pick his brain a little, in hopes that I could steal his good ideas and shoddily repackage them as my own.

Here are the results of my inquisition:

Igloo :: If you were a Super Hero, how would your ‘stat card' read?

Matthew Jeanes :: It would be heavily weighted towards the smarts and tactics and pretty low on strength and agility. I might have a higher-than-average berserker score.

Igloo :: I spent a couple of weeks with your new record, Loss Leader. I drove up and down the Florida coast with it. I soaked it in. I had time to analyze it musically and assign it a personal meaning in the process. Can you briefly describe this record and what it means to you?

Matthew Jeanes :: It's probably important to note that Loss Leader is really two small records put together in one package. The first half of the record is a reflection on a lot of personal growth and change in my life, but the second half is supposed to be a Kaiju-themed romp.

Igloo :: In the past, you have released records with common thematic elements. One particularly fine example is Empire, which draws from your unapologetic love/hate relationship with Star Wars. Tell us a bit about your latest record, Loss Leader. Was there a theme or mood you were trying to capture with this record?

Matthew Jeanes :: The Monster Music 2 tracks were definitely a return to the themed records like Monster Music and Empire. I delved a little deeper into the rich history of Godzilla films and scores and found a lot of inspiration in those themes. For the Turning Around half of the record, those were songs that were written in the period right after Dead Weight and they were an extension of that record in a way. I wanted to go further down the guitar path and write songs where the guitar and other intentional melodies were the basis. Usually I build melodies from samples so writing the melodies on keys and guitar was an attempt to find a more direct way to express what the record was about.

Igloo :: Can you walk us through your creative process? How do you get from Idea to draft to finished product? Do you even have a set method for working?

Matthew Jeanes :: Typically I start by sampling a lot of bargain bin CD's. I force myself to find at least one sample on every disc I get; no matter how much I hate the source material. I build up a sound bank and then start throwing things together, making loops, writing bass lines. Every song usually starts out as an 8-bar loop with five or six layers, then I figure out how to go somewhere from that point. Sometimes I'm figuring out how to build up to that loop, other times I'm trying to start with five layers and add five more. It's really pretty instinctive at that point--I either feel like the song is developing to say what I want, or I don't.

Igloo :: Can you tell us a little about your studio set-up? What sort of software/hardware do you use?

Matthew Jeanes :: It's all software now. I write everything in Cubase and I use an old version of Kontakt as the center of every track. I get bass sounds from the V-Station and Massive and I play with some other plug-ins here and there, but if you took away everything but Kontakt and the V-Station I would probably be just fine. I started using Guitar Rig on Loss Leader and that gave me an in to the world of recording my own guitar tracks.

Igloo :: How do you feel about modern software plug-ins vs. traditional outboard processing?

Matthew Jeanes :: I just wrote a lengthy diatribe about technology and music on my blog. As frustrating as the software can be, I don't see myself ever going back to having a lot of hardware. With a computer that can handle everything I throw at it, all I have to do is turn it on and fire up the programs. No cords, no wall-warts, no mixers--anything that creates a physical impediment to creativity needs to be removed. I used to lose lots of productive time trying to wrangle cords and discs and trying to figure out where the crackle was coming from--now I just boot up Cubase and put on headphones and go to town.

Igloo :: One of the best elements of your live performances is undoubtedly the video sync. Your website features a whole section of film reviews, some of which you ruthlessly destroy. I imagine your music is deeply rooted in your love of film... So, I have to ask: If there was one movie you could have done the soundtrack for, which would it be and why?

Matthew Jeanes :: Any movie I loved is likely going to have a soundtrack that I think is already close to perfect, so I wouldn't want to replace anything. A movie like the Matrix, while it isn't one of my favorites, is something that I think could have benefited from a more creative or out-there score. If I could re-score a movie now, it might be Soderbergh's Solaris. I love the score on that, but I could see the film going in another direction with some different music, and I'm such a fan of Tarkovsky's original film that I'd love the chance to work on the newer, sleeker version.

Igloo :: If you could choose one director to write a film based on the music of Larvae, who would it be?

Matthew Jeanes :: I'm in love with what Rian Johnson is doing, so that might be my first choice. I don't think that music plays too much of a role in his films so far but I'd love to hear my music with his writing. A close number two might be Darren Arronofsky, but half of his films have been kind of bleak in that "I'm not sure I want to watch that again" kind of way, and I don't think my music is that dark.

Igloo :: I want to back up in your career for a moment and talk about the 2006 album Dead Weight - which I had the honor of contributing a couple of guitar tracks to. Dead Weight is a magnificent beast of a record, featuring tons of collaborations, highly inventive arrangements and a really broad selection of instrumentation. Echoes of these almost band-like departures from your "classic" drum-n-bass & break-core jams are also evident in Loss Leader. I suppose what I'm trying to get at is:

(1) I've noticed your approach to the guitar is both subtle and unique. I remember you joking about it being a limitation of your ability -- but in all seriousness, who are your guitar heroes and how do they play into the big picture of your compositions?

1877 image 2 Matthew Jeanes :: I have seen two bands that played very heavily guitar-oriented songs live without a single guitar onstage (Snowpony and Young Gods) so that has been an influence. Knowing that you can perform guitar music without a guitar has given me the freedom to try to work with sounds that I'm in no way qualified to perform. From a purely sonic perspective, I'm really into the simple melodies of Low, the volume of Mogwai, and the spectral qualities of Robin Guthrie's work so I'm always trying for some mixture of those influences.

Igloo :: (2) Your drum programming on Dead Weight was really organic compared to 2003's Fashion Victim, where as on Loss Leader there seems to be a bit more of a return to traditional electronic drum sounds. In general the tempos on both of these latter records are more relaxed and seem to 'groove' a little harder. Can you explain this progression?

Matthew Jeanes :: I started out thinking that my music needed to be anchored to club music whatever that was, so I used a lot of synthetic drum sounds and mechanical rhythms. The more I got into writing songs with guitar for Dead Weight, the more I realized that I didn't owe anyone 180 BPM or chopped up amen breaks or 808 drums --I figured that what worked best were sounds that played well with all of the guitars and banjos and other things we brought in for those sessions. Once I realized that I didn't need to keep making drum n bass-speed records, I felt free to go back to the synthetic sounds, but with a slower, moodier application. I am much more likely to listen to slow music and it suits my style of writing around the bass, so I'm probably going to keep exploring the lower tempos with a combination of natural and unnatural drums.

Igloo :: I'd like to jump back on the subject of video. Now that you've essentially established the precedent of creating a unique video for each song you perform live, do you feel that the visual aspect of your music predicts the audio aspect? In other words, do you ever conceptualize a video and then write a song as a soundtrack to it?

Matthew Jeanes :: Yes, that happens a lot. It's a real burden actually because if I write a song that I really like, I know that I have to visualize it somehow if I am going to play it. For instance with "Heavy" from Loss Leader, that song is about seven or so minutes long on the record, but it can be played for up to 10 minutes live --but that's a tall order to come up with a single video that stays interesting and relevant for that long. I write a lot of 3-4 minute songs now because I know that's all we can do with the video sometimes.

Igloo :: RAPID FIRE...GOGOGOGO! -- Who would direct a better movie, Wolverine or Iron Man?

Matthew Jeanes :: Tony Stark probably has a better sense of how to wrangle people from his business days, but Logan might just shoot a Dogme classic so it's a toss up.

Igloo :: Who would win in a fist fight, George Lucas or Peter Jackson?

Matthew Jeanes :: Peter Jackson, even the skinny version.

Igloo :: If you could change one thing about Star Wars, what would it be?

Matthew Jeanes :: Luke and Leia should not be siblings. It's too contrived and it forced the prequels to go in a very specific direction.

Igloo :: If you could change one thing about the music business, what would it be?

Matthew Jeanes :: I'd get rid of commercial radio stations.

Igloo :: Knowing you are a fan of the sport… who's your favorite soccer team?

Matthew Jeanes :: The Houston Dynamo.

Igloo :: Do you think you will ever write a soccer-themed album?

Matthew Jeanes :: Not an album, but I have seriously considered a single.

Igloo :: All silliness aside, I know you just released a DVD of your videos with commentary...what's next for Larvae?

Matthew Jeanes :: I am working on another themed record. It will pay homage to the work of (super secret director) the way Empire did to Star Wars and Monster Music 1&2 did to Toho.

Igloo :: I have to admit, I'm not a professional interviewer and your patience has been appreciated. However, before we end this ride, is there anything you'd like to leave the readers of Igloo with? Any sage wisdom you'd like to impart? Shout outs? Do you wish to serve anyone so that it may be “on” -- as it were?

Matthew Jeanes :: I'd like to challenge musicians to make something new, and to give up on making their version of something that's 25 years old. I've heard too much shitty no-wave lately from kids who should be able to tune their instruments and keep their drum machines in time.

Larvae can be found on these fine and modern Internets at …and by the way, Loss Leader is fantastic. - Igloo

"Loss Leader Review"

Atlanta-based post-rock / electronic trio Larvae’s preceding 2006 album ‘Dead Weight’ in many senses represented their most ‘complete’ sounding work to date, and this latest third album ‘Loss Leader’ represents their first recorded output since 2007’s split album release with Spyweirdos ‘How To Disintegrate / Seven Ways To Kill A Tree.’ It’s also distinctly a game of two halves, the eight tracks here being conceptually split up into two stylistically different EPs. Titled ‘Turning Around’, the first EP definitely represents the more post-rock oriented of the two, with the widescreen, melancholic fusion of trailing guitar elements, slow, reverb-heavy drums and programmed rhythms aesthetically following on neatly from where ‘Dead Weight’ left off – indeed, the delicate and trailing, piano-laced ‘Heavy’ (a highlight here) apparently comes from those same album sessions. By comparison, the second, more electronics-dominated EP ‘Monster Music 2', a sequel to the band’s very first 2003 EP release ‘Monster Music’, sees Larvae mainman Matt Jeanes riding solo. Pensive, heavy drum-laced offerings such as the Scorn-esque ‘Monster Zero’ see Jeanes following a stylistic trajectory that reveals the influence of dubstep without ever really becoming subsumed in it, and indeed there’s just as much of the influence of dark electronic pioneers Skinny Puppy in tracks such as ‘Megalon’ as say, Milanese or Plastician. In this case, Matt Jeanes’ game of two halves strategy has clearly paid off, with both EPs being as equally compelling as they are stylistically different. - Cyclic Defrost


ADN101 - Loss Leader - 2008
ECO01 - How to Disintegrate - 2007
ADN62 - Dead Weight - 2006
ADN61 - Unraveled Ears - 2005
ADN48 - Empire - 2005
ADN29 - Fashion Victim - 2003
ADN28 - Monster Music - 2003
SUB702 - SUB702 - 2003



Larvae makes music and videos.