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Valley Of The Giants - Valley Of The Giants CD (album) cover

VALLEY OF THE GIANTS

Valley Of The Giants

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.04 | 21 ratings

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TCat
4 stars 'Valley of the Giants' is the name of a band and their only album released in 2004. The group was sort of a post rock supergroup consisting of members that mostly come from the Constellation recording label. It consisted of Sophie Trudeau of 'Godspeed You! Black Emperor' and 'A Silver Mt. Zion', Brendan Canning of 'Broken Social Scene' and 'hHead', Charles Spearin also of 'Broken Social Scene' and 'Do Make Say Think', and several other members.

The music is mostly instrumental, mostly of a post rock style, but mixing cinematic western styles that give the music a 'spaghetti western' vibe, along with world music and folk music aspects. It all generates a very interesting sound unique from most post rock bands.

'Claudia and Klaus' starts out with an acoustic guitar and a fiddle with a side of lapsteel guitar to creating a sparse and desert landscape. The acoustic guitar provides the melody with the violin bowing a chord that only changes slightly.

'Westworld' starts with an electric guitar playing a melody and this time, percussion steps in to provide a slow walking pattern. This one has lyrics sung beautifully by Deidre Smith and the vocals take you by surprise if you aren't expecting them, but they are definitely welcome. Trudeau plays along with her violin contributing a lovely countermelody to the sung melody. At around the 4 minute mark, a rapidly played guitar provides the post rock sound and intensity builds as the drums becoming more wild and wordless vocals start. Things calm during the last minute. This reminds me of the band 'Gregor Samsa' which is a great thing.

'Cantara Sin Guitarra' starts with a field recording of a mariachi band, then an acoustic guitar plays a lovely Spanish serenade with classical overtones. Soon, what sounds like struck piano strings join in with some sparse percussion. There are also some great effects in there that sound almost like wind gusts blowing through the dust. The violin provides a melody around 3 minutes, and you get the world music vibe (sort of a gypsy feel) in the middle of the American desert. Very nice! Soon a trumpet joins in creating some dissonance, and a piano playing improvised arpeggios as the whole thing turns into a procession like we've been transported to Mardi Gras.

'Beyond the Valley' combines piano and a strange keyboard sound in an almost ambient start. A slight percussive sound turns this all into a 'cowboy riding across the plains' style strut. The rhythm stops at 3:30 and subdued guitars start to create an unsettling atmosphere, and suddenly stronger guitar chords come in and percussion builds again. A warbling organ creates a sort of drone deep underneath as intensity between guitars and a screeching violin increase. Tempo slowly increases, but it all eventually turns into a frenzy of sound (as if our cowboy was swept up in a tornado) which finally starts to dissipate slowly at the 9 minute mark.

'Waiting to Catch a Bullet' is another 10 minute track starting with a guitar drone and a lone violin which is joined by a sparse acoustic guitar. They create a slow boil of a track as the song continues with only some occasional percussive noises. This one stays psychedelic and experimental creating atmosphere more than anything else as it meanders slowly along. It's sort of like wandering in the desert sand in the hot sun. Some might think this goes on too long, but it does paint a desolate picture that you can get lost in.

'Whaling Tale' is kind of an odd duck on this album. After the long desert trek, we come to the shore. There is a spoken word narration on this one provided by John Seck, who also played the flamenco guitar in the 3rd track. This one takes us to the ocean, as per the title. The narrator has a sailor's accent as he tells his tale. Underneath it all is an ambient bass combined with atmospheric keyboards. Other effects come and go. Where the previous track painted a nice picture, this one in my opinion does go on too long, and the album loses its strength in this strange track that seems totally out of place.

'Back to God's Country' starts with a soft lone guitar, but soon gets more abrasive as another guitar joins in. This one definitely has that post rock sound as things build in intensity and tempo speeds up. When you feel like things might spin out of control, everything drops off to some sparse squeaky trumpet, percussion and guitar. Intensity builds again. Chaos follows. This one really reminds me of that GY!BE sound as tension builds and releases except for that unique trumpet that is in the mix.

'Bata Bay Inn' ends the album. This one starts off quietly with echoing metallic sounds and a peaceful guitar with occasional piano notes. Soft percussion and vocals from Deidre Smith start after 2 minutes. Everything stays peaceful and soft throughout. The violin playing in a high register is beautiful in the instrumental break, almost sounding like a harmonica. Then, another surprise as other singers join in about'.well 'smoking that s*!t and getting your mind right'. A nice humorous ending.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable and varied post rock album that adds a lot of that western atmosphere with other surprises throughout. Except for a few drawn out tracks, this is an excellent album which almost gets a 5 star rating. It is a pleasant change of pace from the usually heavy and dark sounds of post rock, and the music ventures out and stretches the boundaries of the genre in ways that you don't expect, and that makes this album exceptional. 'Whaling Tale' is just awkwardly out of place on here, and 'Waiting to Catch a Bullet' stretches on a little too long. Other than that, this is a 4.5 star album that just barely missed being essential.

Still, I highly recommend this album especially if you love post rock, or if you love that cinematic western sound. This is definitely essential for post rock lovers who want to hear their boundaries stretched into new directions.

TCat | 4/5 |

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