Certain environs are more suited to the discharge of electricity, but Laarks have found conductors in a wide range of places – spanning state and even continental divides – while basing out of pastoral indie-rock hotbed Eau Claire, WI. And if dragging your feet across the carpet makes for a visible spark, Laarks have taken extra time and care – shuffling their proverbial feet across a thick shag over the course of two years – in amply charging their debut record An Exaltation of Laarks with enough jolt to terminate an arrhythmia.
An Exaltation of Laarks isn’t so much a laudation of the band as it is a summons to experience the exuberance and passion of finely crafted pop songs executed with contagious energy, and in stunning fidelity (especially considering the band did it themselves, from 2” tape to
album art). Listening to the record is like flying a keyed kite in a thunderstorm, soaring on textured choruses and layered buildups, waiting for the lightning to strike just to feel it course through your body to your melted soles.
Laarks was born to fill a void. Singer, songwriter and keyboard player Ian Jacoby and drummer Brian Moen began collaborating after the dissolution of previous projects (most notably Moen drummed with Amateur Love and DeYarmond Edison, which spawned bands Bon Iver and Megafaun). As old friends emigrated south(and then to northern hunting cabins, but that’s another
story…), Jacoby and Moen began crafting songs togetherin a cold, damp Wisconsin basement, eventually enlisting Kyle Flater to play guitar and additional keys,and Zach Hanson to play bass. Space heaters vied with
ungrounded vintage Sears-brand Silvertone amplification for power strip slots, and foreheads did battle with the underside of floor beams (if nothing else, Laarks
are taller, on average, than average) as the band pared down and built up new material.
The recording began in March 2007 when Hanson, then a student and not yet a band member, recorded Moen and his 70 year old drum kit to tape at McNally Smith School of Music in Saint Paul, MN, with the help of
friend Eric Rykal. It was converted into ones and zeros, and Moen spent the next year or more recording everyone else, piece-by-piece, bit-by-bit, often re-tracking
parts due to his ever-evolving experience. Recording rigs were assembled and disassembled; gear was borrowed from friends like Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) or bought and
sold on eBay (Moen is a Power Seller) to follow whatever creative paths Laarks lighted upon.
Moen was invited to be the touring drummer for Montreal’s Land of Talk on their European tour; subsequently, mixing the Laarks record took place largely on the road. For six months virtual sliders were slid, knobs were twiddled and tracks were hard-panned while backstage, in the van and in hotels around Europe. Once his role in Land of Talk ended, Moen finished mixing at his home in Saint Paul, MN, followed by Hanson’s mastering work.
The end result is a record full of melodic hooks embedded in indie rock mini-epics, with raucous crescendos and climaxes of textures pinned between pauses and composed reflection. The band pushes and prods Jacoby’s astute-yet-innocent pop songs into dynamic, overblown declarations of grandeur with layered keyboards,organs and guitars swirling around pulsing,driving bass and frantic, fiery drums. It’s the sound of a band markedly assured for a debut, delightfully void of irony, with a maelstrom of reference points resulting in some of the most vigorous, fervent electrifying pop music on any side of the Chippewa River. Charged air releases unwitting sparks: brace yourselves for an exaltation of Laarks.
-Christopher M. Porterfield, March 3, 2009