[1st October 2013]
01. Violent Lights (Feat. Alex Hedley)
04. Between Two Worlds (Feat. Freyja)
[31st October 2013]
01. Little Bird (Feat. Alyusha)
02. Mechanical Minds
03. Strangest Tides (Feat. Heymun)
04. Dark Clouds Mean War
Nordic Giants are an unconventional band, to say the least. The anonymous, multi-instrumentalist duo combine cinema, theatre and music in their live performance – as we saw at the ArcTanGent festival – in a manner that is deeply moving and virtually unique. With Build Seas, Dismantle Suns, the pair have come close to releasing an album – albeit in two EP-sized halves a month apart from each other.
The band’s expansive post-rock sound is built around a skeleton of haunting piano, often drenched in reverb, and surprisingly upbeat drums that owe as much to beat merchants like DJ Shadow or RJD2 as they do to Sigur Rós or Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This basic framework is then augmented with sounds drawn from a rich palette, including electronica, strings, bowed guitar and trumpet. The result is a lush, organic sound that can be as easily shaped by the band to be warm and welcoming as it can be sinister and foreboding.
As with their previous EPs, Nordic Giants have relied on a procession of guest vocalists to sing on the tracks, with four of them making an appearance across the eight tracks on offer here. Despite the variety of voices, the tracks do retain a shared identity and a natural continuity. Freyja, an other-worldly vocalist who has joined the band on stage, makes her first recorded appearance on “Between Two Worlds“.
When not enlisting vocalists, Nordic Giants also prove themselves to be particularly adept at employing spoken word passages to powerfully emotive effect. The pick of the crop this time around is “Mechanical Minds”, which features extensive and artfully edited excerpts of Charlie Chaplin’s climactic speech from The Great Dictator. The speech is, without hyperbole, one of the greatest in film history so they couldn’t have gone far wrong with it, but it has been deftly entwined with the music rather than gracelessly dumped on top of it.
One significant break Nordic Giants make from post-rock convention is in song length. The majority of these songs clock in at around the five minute mark, whereas so many of their contemporaries succumb to the temptation of flabby ‘epics’ of ten minutes or more. A good part of the reasoning behind these shorter structures is likely to be practical, as the band play their songs in the live environment as soundtracks to carefully selected short films. Nevertheless, the net result is tight, concise tracks that prove music can be immersive without having to force the listener into some over-convoluted ‘journey’.
Build Seas, Dismantle Suns is still thoroughly evocative, though, with moments of almost unbridled euphoria, delicate wistfulness and apocalyptic portents awaiting the listener.
Make no mistake, the very best way to experience the music of Nordic Giants is through their live performances. They can’t be onstage all the time, so it is perhaps a relief that the music is strong enough to stand on its own two (or maybe four) feet independently of the elements that push their shows into being events rather than just mere gigs.
If money is tight, or you’re just taking a punt, then I think Dismantle Suns is the better of the two releases, but only by a nose. The two halves sit comfortably and sympathetically next to each other.
Build Seas and Dismantle Suns are both available via the Nordic Giants Bandcamp page, along with their previously released EPs and singles.
Put simply, Nordic Giants are the complete package. Powerful, emotional and thought-provoking, their music will draw you in to a painstakingly constructed world of astonishing beauty. Fans of all things ‘post’ should consider Build Seas, Dismantle Suns to be essential purchases.