The Chicago band Crown Larks make the sort of music that remains, in spots, genuinely transgressive, even as portions of this act's new record will seem fairly accessible to braver listeners. The band's latest album, Population, is out now and it's a brash, swooning ride through the maelstrom.
At their very best, like on the affecting "Goodbye", the vocals of Lorraine Bailey and Jack Bouboushian blend nicely as the various players lay down an undulating rhythmic pattern behind them that's punctuated by flutes and keyboards. Elsewhere, there are tracks that are full of a sort of near-psychedelic sense of exploration ("Circus Luuv"), and others that disintegrate into free jazz chaos ("React"). There are many times here on Population where Bouboushian's vocals echo those of both Bobby Gillespie or Jason Pierce which is not to deny that this listener would have still liked to have heard more from Lorraine Bailey beyond the lovely bits she contributes here, like her Grace Slick-meets-Diamanda Galas-style crooning on closer "Stranger (Unce Down To The New Store)".
Still, as an ensemble, Crown Larks are remarkably tight -- listen to the controlled chaos of "Burn It Down" -- and they seem to be able to pull off this sort of thing with a naturalness that few others would be capable off. Reminiscent of mid-Eighties Sonic Youth offerings, and even recent Radiohead records (in spots), Population is a genuinely brave record. And it's one that successfully pulls off a few genre leaps with remarkable ease. Bits of free jazz brush up against a revival of No New York styles in a fresh way and a listener is rewarded with an album that's both genuinely risky and simultaneously listenable. Crown Larks may sound like they are going to torch the building but they're going to make the crackling flames sound lovely, you know?
[Photo: Greg Stephen Reigh]