Urna is a project from Italy that has been around for many years now, but has remained largely unheard outside of his own country except for maybe the early releases that came out on the infamous Slaughter Productions. I first heard his CD-R “Lares” back then when it came out and was very impressed by it. I tried tracking down his other work with little luck, besides the occasional disc here or there. So it was great news when Brave Mysteries announced they were releasing this new tape. Hopefully there will be more in the future. This is unfortunately already sold out, but is still fairly available on discogs or through some distros. As with all Brave Mysteries releases this comes on a nice pro-dubbed tape with a cool body print on the tape and full color artwork. The cover art and inside photo are done well and look nice, a tad generic though and don’t really bring much to the imagination while listening to the music.
The tape starts out with “Klangling” featuring grinding cymbals and an airy ambience, before shifting into struck singing bowls and ringing hand bells. The ambience appears to be made from bowed metal or perhaps deep flutes of some kind. Everything stays primarily in the mid-range to high end until finally some deep bass stabs fill the mix. Moving on to “Mu”, the third track on side A, we are greeted with a minimal hand drum beat to set the mood. This lays the foundation for more clanging metal of various types and a thick mid-range electronic drone, accented by deep vocal chanting. Huge sweeps of reverberated clatter push to the forefront before residing back into the shadows. Gradually the voices get louder and louder in the mix filling you with the creeping dread of running through an underground tunnel beneath the streets, drums come from every direction and you never know if you’re getting closer or farther from the madmen chasing you due to the disorienting echoes of the reverb drenched halls. This same formula get pushed up a notch in the next track “Lha-Mo” with a heavier more plodding beat, less reverb and replacing the vocals with thick beautiful harmonium drones that sound both organic and menacing.
Side B’s first track “Endura” begins with some deep plucked guitar notes before being enveloped in a thick fog of bassy yet windy drones. This eventually gives way to some more chanted vocals, much more “sung” than on the first side, and subtle use of metallic bells. This extremely dark and subtle track is a good come down from the intense ending to the first side. This is followed by “Rakshasa” which uses only metallic percussion to create multi-layered mesmerizing rhythms, and then “Hannya” which starts with deep vocal chants and more multi-layered acoustics. This is the shortest track on the album and can probably be seen as an outro type piece.
All and all, “Larvae” is a fantastic recording by someone with a clear vision, a wealth of talent and a firm grip on multi-instrumentation. Nothing ever sounds wanky or thrown together, it never sounds like someone playing with a bunch of toys, but instead a very talented musician bringing together many instruments from around the world into a very unified and personal album of beautiful folk influenced ritual ambient music. My only complaint would be there seems to be an extra amount of hiss to this tape over others on the same label. Having heard past Urna releases though that always have an excellent production quality, I would guess it’s more the pressing plants fault over any flaw in the recordings. I’m very much looking forward to both new work by Urna and seeing what Brave Mysteries comes out with next.
Written by Andrew Quitter