Live Review: Nordic Giants

King Tuts – 19/2

This one’s a challenge. Not just because trying to describe this event in itself is difficult, but retrospectively pondering whether Nordic Giants actually put on a gig at all. Tonight’s entertainment could be considered an art experience or a cinema trip just as much as it could be considered a concert.

Glaswegian instrumentalists Vasa are, surprisingly, easier to dissect. That wouldn’t be the case on a lot of other line-ups, since they excel in quiet/loud dynamics and ever changing time signatures reminiscent of Mastodon and And So I Watch You From Afar at their most bonkers. They’ve got a ways to go before their vocalless setup can hit you with emotions the way bands like Mogwai and Caspian can, but they’re definitely on to something.

The same can’t be said for Inuit. Instrumental music has to have that aforementioned something for it to work, otherwise it’s just hold music. Inuit’s set is only half an hour long but there’s more fun to be had on the phone waiting to speak to someone at SAAS.

Nordic Giants are quick to counter that. A pair of screens light up with the words “Nordic Giants presents…” and we are off. The set is accompanied by a series of small movies based on short, at times incredibly abstract, narratives. There’s a clip called ‘Metachaos’ involving a lot of white, a lack of gravity, and, well, chaos. There’s one involving pencil-shaded artworks, with nods to Pink Floyd, Pokemon, Studio Ghibli, Summer Wars, and countless other animated features. There’s the show stopper called ‘The Last Breath’. involving what appears to be a family who go scuba diving, only to resurface and find that there is no breathable oxygen left and their air tanks are what’s keeping them alive – so they turn on one another. This one even ended with a “to be continued…” screen. Cue confusion and laughter.

The band themselves are dressed like their own interpretation of what nordic giants would look like; faceless, hairy, feral and imposing. It’s worth noting that the band themselves are from Brighton which isn’t considered nordic, but they do a good job of recreating that ethereal sort of music usually found over in Scandinavia.

On record, their piano-led tracks are minimal and repetitive, often initially delicate pieces that lead to a more visceral climax. Live, these tracks act as a live soundtrack to the videoclips. In fact, it’s easy to forget the music you’re hearing is being created live when you’re transfixed on a woman who begins to float above the clouds only to find others already there. Even the wild appearance of the duo takes a backseat, a trait bands like Slipknot have placed heavy emphasis on. Submerged behind a rather gratuitous use of strobe lighting, the band may be responsible for what’s happening, but they’re in no way the focus.

It’s hard to decide what to label Nordic Giants but existential post-rock is as good a moniker as any, since the incredibly bleak nature of many of the videoclips is enough to cause one to experience an existential crisis. For better or worse, Nordic Giants are doing something completely different – they’re a touring band who wear costumes and hope that you spend as little time looking at them as possible because they’ve made some films for us to question our life over. A gig, an art show, a cinema experience; who knows?

[Scott Wilson]

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