Laurels – L.

4 out of 5

Label: Thick, Herapin, Symbiotic

Produced by: George Dussault (tracks: 5, 11), Jon Williams (5) (tracks: 1, 4, 9, 12, 14), Steve Albini (tracks: 2, 3, 7, 10, 13), Tom Buckland (tracks: 6, 8) (all recorded by)

See all those labels?  All those producers?  Drums and guitar duties were further split up, as well.

It’s indicative of the sole “problem” with Laurels’ otherwise fantastic L. album: it’s a bit scattered for identity.  Another one of those unsung post-rock maestros, Laurels seemed to be here and gone, but they actually released a slew of singles over several years (which were appreciably collected on a compilation disc) and likely had sumthin’ to say if you were hanging around their local Providence, but got lost in the shuffle of sludge NY and Chicago were spewing with Touch and Go and the like.

Using Albini as a sound touchpoint, this is low and dirty rawk, with oddball touches of groove and, like, krautrock, coughed up through Jeff Toste’s weird Kermit-y vocals.  When the group stays focused on a riff – which is often – the songs are blazing masterpieces of boogie: the mad thrash of Grave Digger; the explosiveness of Sweet As Pie.  As mentioned, though, there’s some wishy-washy when it comes to figuring out Laurels’ defining “sound,” as the group plays with some lighter fare – often punctuated by a bad-ass riff, but nonetheless – that doesn’t quite make as indelible as a mark as the rockers.  The bookend Untitled tracks almost seem like an attempt to shore this up, suggesting some kind of structure, but it’s something of a lark.  Still, if you’ve gone through your Shellac records enough and miss the days of discovering that opening act that it pains you ain’t getting the attention it deserves, track down a Laurels disc and relive the beautiful 90s era of post-rock glory.