Amplify Human Vibration
October 20th 2017 – KScope
01. Taxonomy Of Illusion
02. First Light Of Dawn
06. Immortal Elements
Regular readers will know that we have a considerable amount of time for Nordic Giants at The Monolith. From a chance encounter with them at the inaugural ArcTanGent festival in 2013, they have repeatedly wowed us with a steady stream of new music and a procession of tremendously emotive live performances of lush and majestic post-rock, engrossing and beautiful moving images and deeply thought-provoking themes. Never a band to stand still, Nordic Giants are breaking new ground with their latest project, Amplify Human Vibration.
As ever, the Amplify Human Vibration project is a tantalising proposition. Rather than bringing discrete individual pieces together into collections of varying lengths, the music is intended to form the soundtrack for an as-yet-unseen documentary film about kindness, positivity and the human spirit. This feels like a natural progression for Nordic Giants; after first setting their music to pre-existing short films, through making their own films in conjuction, and now to exploring a longer form. We obviously have no concrete idea about how this film will ultimately look and feel, but quietly hope/suspect that it will fall somewhere between Koyaanisqatsi and One Giant Leap.
Both the form and the subject matter have clearly influenced the composition of the musical aspect of Amplify Human Vibration. The most clearly obvious departure is that this is the first Nordic Giants release to not prominently feature any guest vocalists at all, which does make sense in the context of a soundtrack. Freyja, who has sung on tracks in the past, makes some atmospheric vocal contributions, particularly on “Reawake“, but they are treated as layers in the instrumentation rather than lead parts. The carefully chosen, carefully edited spoken word samples are still very much present on a majority of the tracks, even if we suspect that some may be removed from the film itself. We shall have to wait and see.
The other big change is in the overall tone. In retrospect, this change actually started to make itself felt on 2016′s Seven Depths of Consciousness tour, and its reworkings of older tracks. Particularly on the Build Seas/Dismantle Suns EPs and 2015′s A Seance of Dark Delusions long-player, there was a portentous, apocalyptic vibe to the tracks. We have been told that ‘time is running out’, that we should “Evolve or Perish” and that “Dark Clouds Mean War“. But now, it seems, the clouds are lifting a little.
This is perhaps best illustrated by “Spirit“. In a neat little nod to their own history, the track’s spoken word samples are drawn from the same Martin Luther King speech as those heard on “Together“, a longstanding mainstay of the Nordic live setlist. The speech itself was made on the subject of the Vietnam war, but with the explicit references to that specific conflict removed it remains a potent generalised call to action.
The other spoken word samples speak of empowerment, co-operation, positivity and a general optimism about what humanity can achieve through all three – but we know Nordic too well to think it is all going to be cuddles and bunny rabbits, so there’s sure to be a sting in the tail lurking somewhere.
The orchestration is warm, lush and organic. It has been a persistent fear that Nordic Giants would end up painting themselves into a sonic corner, but it feels like the palette has broadened here. There are two purely instrumental tracks on Amplify Human Vibration; “First Light of Dawn” feels particularly appropriately titled, with warm tones gradually seeping from the speakers and slowly building into a soothing soundscape. The track feels like the ideal alarm clock for a lazy day, if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. “Autonomous” closes out the album, starting with an ephemeral church organ and ending with a practically triumphant final major key swell.
We are very conscious that this music is just one piece of the full Amplify Human Vibration project, but it is a big piece and one that bodes extremely well for the remainder, as well as sitting comfortably alongside Nordic Giants’ formidable back catalogue. Referring to them as simply ‘a band’ seems to not do justice to what Nordic Giants do. With the three strands of audio, visual and performance painstakingly and thoughtfully entwined together, the live experience they deliver is simply without peer. What’s more, this record also reaffirms that the music is strong enough to stand firmly and proudly on its own two (or maybe four) feet.
Whether in a venue with the full performance, or on record with a good pair of speakers or headphones, Nordic Giants have an uncanny ability to transport those experiencing their art away to a breathtakingly beautiful and uncommonly thought-provoking place. If you are yet to dive in and explore the world that Nordic Giants are creating, now is most certainly the time. What are you waiting for?