Oxyd – Larva

Aliens Production (AP17), 2007

You might not think of Slovakia as a hotbed of electronic music, but Lord Sauron and Ryby would like you to reconsider.  Not only are the enigmatic duo the founders and operators of the Aliens Production label, they are also the frontmen of electro act Disharmony and the dark ambient spin-off project Oxyd.  They describe Oxyd as “dark ambient,” but the music is far too versatile, melodic, and focused to fit into that genre exclusively.  If Delerium – early Delerium, mind you – was the ambient side of Front Line Assembly, than Oxyd fills the same niche when compared to the ominous synths, driving rhythms, and rasping vocals of Disharmony.  Larva, the first Oxyd album to appear on its “home” label, is an instrumental work full of lush harmonies, delicate atmospheres, thoughtful percussion, and in places, genuine beauty.

“From the Outside” kicks off the album with what certainly seems like straightforward ambient:  distant synthetic thunder and sampled chanting, but things soon take an interesting turn.  A spoken sample warns about tourists on the beach and a woman “moving in with your brother,” followed by deft piano touches that foreshadow the attention to melody that threads throughout the album.  “Traveller” is next, with classic EBM-style sequencing outlined by an IDM flair, all enhanced by driving drumwork.  It’s heavy without being stifling, and the backing keys and sparkling sequencing keep things from getting too dark.  More odd voice samples and Gregorian-style chanting finish the track with a flourish.

The next few tracks slow the momentum just a touch.  The center of “Transformations” is a repeated sequence melody with off-tempo percussion that has a strong prelude-type feel, but the track ends before a payoff is reached.  “Unborn” has yet more bizarre voice samples – Oxyd is careful not to overuse the samples, using them to give their music a unique bent – and intertwining keyboards with minimal percussive echoes in the distance.  “Transmission” goes on too long, with its metallic drums becoming increasingly wearing as they clang over and over with little change.

Larva then firmly re-establishes itself with “Suspiria,” which uses muted drums and minimal piano as a wispy core; Sauron and Ryby certainly understand IDM, for this is an outstanding entry into the genre, while maintaining Larva’s uniquely strange and attractive feel.  “Carbon” is thick with windswept drama, with its soaring synths and tribal percussion, and “Voices of Sand” augments the mood with lovely synths that shift into a drum/sequence combination that rivals “Traveller.”  Sauron and Ryby then reach their peak with “Dune,” a mesmerizing showcase of chord-shifting melody and booming bass kicks, and the carefully placed flows, buzzes, and clicks of “Sunlights.”  Larva’s crowning moment, however, is the sublime “The Frozen Moon,” a triumph of pace, feel, atmosphere, and rhythm.  It evolves with a master’s touch, moving forward while never losing sight of each of its components.  Ryby and Sauron are superbly talented songwriters and technicians, and “Sculptures” is undeniable proof.  They’re somehow able to make their machines sound natural.  After the longing keys and layered percussion of “Scupltures” (which soars achingly into the stratosphere at the five-minute mark), “From the Inside” closes Larva with piano and woodwinds rife with all the melodic brilliance featured on this marvelous album.

Aliens Production is not a prolific label, having released about twenty albums to date, in a variety of styles.  Its criminally overlooked discography is full of accomplished electronic music with a particular feel; something commonly inspirational must be in the Slovakian water.  Larva isn’t dark ambient – it’s much more.  It’s a genre-defying yet cohesive work that follows a strong vision, created and composed by two musicians who have a profound understanding of not just genre, but of music itself.  Each track flows into the next, connected by common threads, each a part of the whole.  Larva is the definition of a hidden classic.

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