On this, their third album, Italian quartet Larsen present a suite of blissed-out pieces apparently inspired by Autechre. The press release states that the band “spent a lot of time improvising around some of their favorite melodies from Autechre albums…suddenly songs were coming out of the air.” Without this information to hand, it would be hard to discern this influence. In the end, though, it hardly matters, since Play is an intriguing and confident work in its own right.
Titled for no apparent reason after letters of the alphabet, the six tracks immerse the listener in a sumptuous array of moods and textures. The opening, lengthy “C” and “E” are intricate, finely spun webs of harmonic tension, with spare bass and violin gradually overwhelmed by massed layers of guitar and drums. If Larsen wear their Swans and Godspeed influences a little too obviously here, there is still no denying the awesome, symphonic power of these constructions.
The rest of the album contains two further longish pieces and two quieter interludes. These may lack the swelling resonance of “C” and “E,” but still have plenty to recommend them. On “S,” waves of xylophone and harmonium merge with a spectral bass figure, until the serenity of the piece is tempered by processing and distortion. “G” is jauntier, its thin, angular percussion steadied by a burrowing riff and blissful accordion work. “J” and “P,” meanwhile, are unnecessarily brief. It’s frustrating to hear these tracks end after just two and three minutes respectively, when Larsen have shown elsewhere how magically they play the long game.