Gig Review: Nordic Giants @ The Fleece
by Alice Lacey
It seems apt that on the coldest, starriest, most autumnal night of the year so far, Nordic Giants; bastions of transcendental, ambient post-rock, arrived from the cosmos in order to showcase their recently released album Amplify Human Vibration at Bristol’s Fleece.
But first, opening the evening, Plymouth-born Steve Strong delivered an engaging set that piqued my curiosity. Although a one-man band, Strong delivered a textured, full-bodied sound that managed to flit from one genre to the next, prog to post-rock to shoe-gaze, with deceptively simply ease. Mixing progressive beats and rhythmic guitar with pulsating piano chords, Strong’s music is certainly unpredictable if not a little detached at times, but nonetheless carefully crafted and worthy of a listen.
Vlma (VLMV previously known as ALMA) comprised of Pete Lambrou (ex-Monsters Build Mean Robots) and Ciaran Morahan (Code In the Clouds) came next, bringing forth a set of delicately shimmering, expansive songs reminiscent of Stars of the Lid, A Winged Victory for the Sullen and, as an inevitable point of reference when discussing any ambient band, Sigur Ros. Through use of delay pedals, loop effects, bowed/screw-drivered guitars, warm strings and twinkling pianos, the duo create a soundscape of real ethereal beauty over which Lambrou’s beatific vocals tremble and soar. Stand out tracks include ‘The Gardner’ and ‘The Lighthouse’. Both start as humble, meditative songs with lyrics dealing with the simple pleasures of life, but build into wonderfully rich pieces that seem to shake your very core - heavy but beautiful at the same time. It’s the kind of music needed on a cold, winter’s afternoon when the sun is setting and all is quiet in the world. Vlma’s new single ‘All These Ghosts’ (Fierce Panda Records) is released on 24 November 2017 and definitely one to listen out for.
Now for the main act. For those discovering Nordic Giants live for the first time - be prepared for an all encompassing, auditory and ocular experience that leaves you feeling as if you’ve not just attended a gig, but a quasi-religious event of theatrical proportions. Indeed, a primordial mood descends upon The Fleece when the enigmatic duo, Loki and Roka, hailing from Brighton via the tales of Oden, appear on stage. Dressed in their uniforms of blackened feather cloaks and elaborate headdresses, not a single word is uttered to the audience as they launch into their set. Behind and to the right of them, projection screens act as their backdrop showing cinematic projections that accompany their (mainly) instrumental pieces. Utterly beautiful, expansive and rich; their new album Amplify Human Vibration is an ambitious project that was put together as a soundtrack to a short film. However, even without the films that play out behind them, the music on its own is exciting, rich and powerful - interweaving strong melodies with the spoken word to great effect.
Standout tracks include album opener ‘Taxonomy of Illusions’ and ‘Spirit’. The former features the voice of Terence McKenna, American Lecturer and author who oft spoke about the origins of human consciousness and the illusions of modern society. The track combines industrial guitars, erratic but controlled drums and true to form, a strong driving piano line which lifts what could be a somewhat depressing dirge into an uplifting and (dare I say it) inspiring piece.
In a similar fashion, ‘Spirit’ uses extracts from Martin Luther King’s ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech (that has as much relevance to our perplexing times as it did back in the 1960’s) on top of soaring strings, guitars and distortion which resonates around the room and crescendos to a sudden but satisfying finish.
Throughout the whole performance, Loki and Roka’s silhouettes flail and writhe as they frantically hit drums and pound piano keys; never stopping to engage with the audience, the enigma intact. The set finishes at it began with the duo downing tools and disappearing back into the darkness from whence they came.
Overall, it’s an exhausting but exhilarating performance. This isn’t just music, this is art, theatre, social commentary, myth and everything in between.
Keep tracks on Nordic Giants, who have just announced new dates for their European tour.
Image Credit: Helen Messenger