In the over three decades since he first began the project, Paul Lemos has guided Controlled Bleeding all over the sonic map, from the early power electronics days into 1980s industrial, and eventually jazz and prog tinged rock improvisations. It makes sense then that, for the first full length release of mostly new work since 2002 (releases since then have been either reissues or contained earlier work), he and his assembled crew of Chvad SB, Mike Bazini, and Anthony Meola have put together two albums of work that draws from all of these eras, and effortlessly manages to shift between periods of the band’s lengthy history at every turn.
Larval Lumps is actually two separate works combined into one single release. The first disc is a suite of five compositions that show heavy studio treatment and processing, while the second is a more immediate, almost live-in-the-studio set of recordings with Martin Bisi at the helm in 2011. “Driving Through Darkness” launches right in with Lemos’ virtuoso guitar playing and what sounds like an intentionally chintzy synth organ backing. The crew injects a bit of free jazz-like expressions into the mix to keep it fresh and energetic throughout, and the result is what could pass for an action TV show opening, even with the calmer guitar outro.
For “Carving Song”, the guitar is present with a throbbing mass of synth noises, along with Lemos himself on vocals. His vocal style is right out of a 1987 Dossier industrial record, so they sit strangely alongside the prog virtuoso guitar and eventual weird, jazzy horns, but it is that exact sort of head-scratching weirdness that has kept CB so innovative all of these years. The tight rhythms and rich synth arrangements of “Trawler’s Return” may go in an relentless, thrashy direction, but the following “As Evening Fades” does the opposite, and instead the band manages to settle into an oddly relaxed, piano driven work that could easily slide into bland contemporary jazz, but never does.
The 22-minute “The Perks of Being a Perv” (parts of which appeared on the split album with Sparkle in Grey) is one of the high points of this whole set, however. For the first few minutes, it is all distorted noise and deep, pounding chug that could be a leftover from one of the band’s early Broken Flag releases. Before long, however, the more modern guitar sound sneaks in atop the distorted rhythms. The piece then becomes a tug of war from the old power electronics days to the newer, squalling guitar sound, shifting between the two beautifully, and resulting in many great variations on the same theme.
Compared to the first disc, the Martin Bisi sessions are more consistent in their sound and style, focusing more heavily on conventional guitar/bass/drum arrangements. While some of these songs appeared on Odes To Bubbler, this is the first release of the full recording sessions. “Return of the Quiet” stands out exceptionally that, even with its rapid guitar and big, echoing drums, there is an inviting and comfortable warmth throughout. Both “Fusion Song” and “Swarm” sound like the band taking more of a jazz direction, with both having quick tempos, but ones that become looser and chaotic, free improv more on the former and almost punky on the latter. Electronics have a larger role on “Eye of Needle”, even though they are still secondary to the guitar and bass leads. However, with its overall slower pace and softer arrangement, it makes for a memorable high point.
“Trang’s Song” is a bit of an odd duck on the whole disc. Featuring female vocals and a more programmed sounding backing track, complete with house music piano appearances, there is a slightly amateurish but endearing quality to it, and it is actually a very fun little footnote to the record. The disc actually ends with an unlisted bonus song, which seems to be a deconstruction/remix of “The Perks of Being a Perv”. It emphasizes that song’s more distorted and noisy elements, pushing the original further and further into strangeness.
Even with mostly contemporary work included, Larval Lumps and Baby Bumps is an odd but highly engaging combination of the various styles Paul Lemos has dabbled in since beginning his career as Controlled Bleeding. Somehow, even with all of these conflicting styles, there is a notable sense of consistency from song to song, making for a sprawling and weird, yet wonderful record that is unpredictable to say the very least.
Review by; Creaig Dunton
Review originally published here: