A great man I was lucky to call friend, but no longer with us, recommended I listen to an album by a band called Soup, as he was sure I would like them. That album was Children of E.L.B., which took my breath away. There have been moments in life, musically, where I find it hard to describe the effect a new piece of music has on me and I still marvel after all these years how I can be so taken by a new band I have not heard previously. I subsequently bought the band’s other material and had really hoped to see them live, but it was not to be as they called it a day.
Then Erland Aastad Viken emerged from the mist with Giantsky’s glorious first album, which raised the bar again, gathering favourable comparisons to artistes such as Nick Drake, Mogwai and great plaudits tagged under a number of genres, including post-rock, pop, ambient and shoegaze.
And now we have the sophomore double album, released on 1st December 2023, entitled simply Giant Sky II, featuring a large list of collaborators. The review CD I received plays straight through; I am reliably advised that there will be a break in the recording on the vinyl/double CD as this was originally intended as two separate albums. The accompanying leaflet affords only a little detail, thereby allowing my imagination to determine my own conclusions without restraint. Further details on the press part of the web page are password protected and I have no access, so this is my review…
beginning (noun) · beginnings (plural noun)
The point in time or space at which something begins.
the first part or earliest stage of something.
Origin of Species ushers in like a sunrise on a calm still morning, rising to meet the day with a gentle instrumental warmth that begins to bathe our ears in a wave of light and sound, to shine on us all.
evolve (verb) · evolves (third person present) · evolved (past tense) · evolved (past participle) · evolving (present participle)
Develop over successive generations as a result of natural selection.
A brisk acoustic guitar rhythm enters with Imposter, Erland joined by ethereal female vocals, swiftly accompanied by drums and other percussion, bursting with electric guitars at around one-and-a-half minutes which sends a host of dandelion clocks exploding into the sky to drift away and spread in the air, shedding notes and chords as they pass by to settle on the ground like a majestic cloak, as a guitar cries out in celebration, fading toward the horizon.
A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses.
An angelic female voice washes over us in Speak Through Walls, like a rippling brook, flowing over acoustic chords and glistening piano keys, reflecting and shimmering before us with crystal delicacy as they flow downstream, merging with strings, guitars bouncing against the bedrock. Erland’s vocals float, distorted on the surface and carried with the flow until it disappears over the edge into nothingness.
murmuration (noun) · murmurations (plural noun)
A flock, a murmuration is a beautiful and fascinating phenomenon that occurs when thousands of birds fly together in a coordinated manner, creating mesmerising patterns in the sky. These murmurations are typically seen just before dusk, when small groups of starlings from the same area come together above a communal roosting site. The birds move in unison, twisting and turning in the sky, creating a shape-shifting cloud that is truly awe-inspiring to watch.
Space Farrier swoops and loops around the speakers like a huge flock of winged notes, dipping up and down in swirls and patterns that mesmerise as they float as one. Drums buffet the breezy tune as warm air streams on an early summer’s evening, the patterns growing larger and more frantic, dying down as the flock sink gradually to land.
Relating to or absorbed in meditation or considered thought.
The Present drifts through our senses. Relaxing in thoughtful musing, we relax to a spoken word passage over a contemplative instrumental that advises of the dangers in not being in touch with and connecting with nature, to keep you safe in this chaotic modern world.
(from Harry Potter)
A portmanteau, combining the words ‘pensive’ and ‘sieve.’ The latter is an object in which something may be sorted, drained or separated, ‘pensive’ is derived from French, and originally from the Latin ‘pensare,’ meaning ‘to ponder,’ and in common English usage means ‘thoughtful’ or ‘reflective;’ thus a ‘pensieve’ allows for the sorting of thoughts or memories. Pensive can also refer to a tense mood someone seems to be in, and memories of tense or awkward moments.
To the Pensive welcomes us with plaintive piano as harmonised vocals from Erland reflect on a relationship and how you can inadvertently offload your problems onto someone who loves you, the music intensifying, reflecting the pressure building, to the extent that they leave you full of regret as it wistfully drifts away.
Feeling or expressing pensive sadness: “his work often has a wistful or melancholic mood” · “a haunting, melancholic melody”
Multitudinous raindrops fall from on high, announcing a beautiful but brief church organ instrumental in Dispatch of Species, inconsolably lamenting the loss of us all as we self-destruct with a whimper not a bang.
ascension (noun) · ascensions (plural noun) · Ascension (noun)
The action of rising to an important position or a higher level.
Curbing Lights sees a burst of sounds, amassing and climbing to reach for the sky as we are lifted from demise to a higher plane, bursting into a million stars of incandescent light.
Relating to or characteristic of an epic or epics, heroic or grand in scale or character.
I Am the Night is the monumental, grandiloquent centrepiece of the album, building from a repeating acoustic riff, the words dejectedly pleading to slow down as we do not pause to look around, trying to escape the ghosts of the past that haunt us. Within us is the light and strength to face and overcome these fears, releasing the mental burden that weighs us down like dark clouds blotting out the reflected light in an evening sky. Sorrowful flute weaves the threads of misery until the singing rushes in and interrupts, with the wall of sound guitars and keyboards that clash and break into discorporate, ephemeral pieces, to be replaced by the heartbeat of a pumping bassline as beauty rises from the metaphoric ashes, scattering like snowflakes in their pale luminosity, and all too soon the song has ended, as if in the blink of an eye, leaving us wanting more and wondering how it passed so quickly.
enlighten (verb), enlightening (present participle)
Give (someone) greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation. Give (someone) spiritual knowledge or insight.
Archaic: shed light on, providing clarity or understanding of, inspiring wonder or amazement.
Birds with Borders gives temporary release from the cares of the world, hiding us from reality. Some believe it leads to an illuminative experience, opens one’s mind maybe, to see things more clearly. Acoustically led, elucidatory lyrics evoke permission, allowing these images of wonder to take their course, on a gentle calm of bubbling sounds that float with musical lysergics to blossom and bloom, uplifting, delivering you to exaltation.
A transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self. An ideal or idyllic state or place, a blissful state of enlightenment.
Pounding and spinning, Tables Turn is the come down. Disorientation, delicate; you are entreated to follow, and they will try to illuminate and educate, inspire the spirit, offering to lead you through your emptiness, giving rise to a higher understanding. You are not alone on this arduous journey.
noun – a feeling of pensive sadness.
adjective – causing or expressing sadness. Having or arousing feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.
The howling wind leads into King of Yellow from the previous track, crying to the refrain of the guitar strings lamenting, synths bemoaning as they traverse the harrowing, penultimate melancholic path. The percussion weighs heavy and the bass whimpers on the instrumental blemished soil of creation, before shepherding us toward the final track in the distance, guitar howling at the last.
A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. A feeling of optimism.
The capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution, or even in oneself and others.
The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.
Erland harmonises beautifully with Glassmanet in a message of hope to the world on an air of joyfulness for this final song, Seeds. Piano and synths combine to spiral in elation and promise, as the jubilant guitar solo builds, merging with sweet instrumentation as it sweeps us into the glaring glow of euphoric deliverance, with a brave new world beckoning.
The light that was Soup has not been dimmed, but wrapped in the cosy, bittersweet blanket that is now Giantsky. It instils a warmth in the heart on a cold winter’s day, when shadows outnumber rays of sunshine. A street-light that shows you the way as you navigate the glistening, iridescent puddles on the path you tread throughout this album.
Many comparisons have been made but once again Erland Aastad Viken has raised us up in his tender embrace, defying such analogies and occupying his own space. Creating a recognisable sound whilst expanding and growing like a flower from between the broken stones and rubble of humanity, the music touches you like a gentle lover, kissing tears from your eyes, caressing emotions from the heart and convincing in the realisation that this will be alright.
This album for me is quite simply beautiful, and one of the best album releases of the year.
– Side 1
01. Origin Of Species
03. Speak Through Walls
– Side 2
01. Space Farrier
02. The Present
03. To The Pensieve
04. Dispatch of Species
– Side 1
01. Curbing Lights
02. I Am The Night
03. Birds With Borders
– Side 2
1. Tables Turn
2. King In Yellow
Erland Aastad Viken – Multi-instrumentalist
Musicians from Glassmanet, Trondheim Symphonic Orchestra, Combos, WZRD, Motorpsycho, Hanne Mjoen and more…
Record Label: GlassVille Records
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 1st December 2023