Nordic Giants are an elusive duo who go by the mythological Norse names of “Loki” and “Roka” and have managed to cloak themselves in a carefully woven shroud of mystery, no easy thing to do in this ever-prying digital age. Famed for their live performances, which involve high cinematic art, and a predilection for performing in unusual venues, the thespian twosome appear “dressed in feathers and shrouded in a ubiquitous fog”, looking “more like residents of Middle Earth”, according to their website. Judging by the photos that’s no word of a lie!
What I can find out is that although this is their first album, the duo have been releasing singles and EPs since 2010, and appear to be English according to Wikipedia, and hail from Brighton according to a review in The Guardian newspaper. English they may be, but they sound like recent escapees from Sigur Rós’s culture bunker, where the only visitor was Bjork who brought them sustenance and a burst of song, and left mixtapes featuring Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky.
Much like the similarly mysterious and be-costumed Goat, who really are Scandinavians, this duo probably make far more sense in a live context than on record. A Séance Of Dark Delusions contains four epically constructed songs “ft.” guest vocalists, the rest of the album consisting of heady instrumentals, occasionally embellished with spoken word samples. This and their heavy conceptualising links Nordic Giants to the currently fashionable and even more sample-heavy conceptual duo Public Service Broadcasting, and like that band the melodies are simplistic and often glossed over by the many but repetitive effects, or buried beneath the grand over-arching, and in this case, metaphysical concept. Scratch below the swirling bluster of the surface, and how much of substance is actually there, I ask myself?
The four songs are the highlights of the album and it was perhaps inadvisable to have three of them run concurrently, as scattering them throughout the record would have made for a more balanced listening experience. As it is, starting with the swirling atmospherics of the two instrumental openers, the second including the first instance of sampled voices, entreating us to be ready for death or somesuch, leading into three fully formed songs makes a lot of the rest of the album a tad of an anti-climax.
The first song and chosen by the band as the first featured track from the album is Rapture. The very Bjork-like swoops and declamations of Beth Cannon make this sound like something you’re sure you’ve heard before, above the strident Europop of the tune.
Far more interesting is the Freyja-led Give Flight To The Imagination, a song that relies on subtlety rather than emoting at Intensity Level Eleven. A fragile thing, it is in danger of disappearing in a gentle wisp of mist on the lightest breeze, and it is the best thing on the record, quite lovely. Falling somewhere between those last two songs is Dissolve, a pleasant but forgettable slice of dreampop. Some nice piano work, whether real or sampled I don’t know, is the only thing that makes Illuminate rise above its rather tame Sigur-isms, and then we’re into the last of the four songs. The marvellously monikered Nadine Wild-Palmer lends her soulful tones to Futures Dark, a somewhat aimless tune that is more BIG Europop, with another helping of that cascading piano that by now I must conclude is played by a human being, presumably “Loki”. He or she also gets out their trumpet for the following Black Folds which at least gives the latest canvas of the by now familiar ambience a slightly different hue.
Again much like Public Service Broadcasting (I really wanted to use “PSB”, but thought better of it!), Nordic Giants are being courted by “proper” music magazines and the music sections of the quality daily papers, so whatever I say makes no difference, but say it I will. While I cannot fault the technical abilities of the two Giants, as it all sounds gorgeous, it seems to me that A Séance Of Dark Delusions though harmless enough is largely a triumph of style over substance. The layers of similar sounding sonic experimentation are really quite interesting to start with but by halfway through my attention is waning. The synthetics only serve to blur the tunes, such as they are, which in any event only really work when there is a vocal line on top to point the way.
Maybe I would think differently if I saw them live, who knows? You can do just that soon as a short tour of the UK runs through November, starting tomorrow (11th) – see the “Live” tab on the band’s website.
01. Elysian Skies (3:35)
02. Evolve Or Perish (5:27)
03. Rapture (ft. Beth Cannon) (3:44)
04. Give Flight To The Imagination (ft. Freyja) (4:44)
05. Dissolve (ft. Saturday Sun) (4:57)
06. Illuminate (5:50)
07. Futures Dark (ft. Nadine Wild-Palmer) (4:16)
08. Black Folds (3:08)
09. A Thousand Lost Dreams (7:07)
Total time – 42:52
Loki – Keys, Synth, Trumpet & Loops
Rôka Skulld – Cymbals & Skins, Bowed Guitar, Samples Pad
Record Label: Kscope
Catalogue#: KSCOPE 317
Year Of Release: 2015