Giant Claw - Midnight Murder
Giant Claw - Midnight Murder
This Giant Claw release really stood out for me among a stack of cassette submissions to KiC. While this might not be as cutting-edge as some KiC-featured records, it's a thoughtfully composed set that wears some well-chosen timbral clothing.
Giant Claw compositions tend to be straightforward affairs, at least on the surface. Clear melodies or patterns assert themselves with friendly harmonic support and the occasional drum machine. Synth sounds rule the Claw--I don't think I hear any sounds that aren't coming from a synth or drum machine. The synth sounds themselves mostly draw from those of the late 60s/early 70s, basic analog subtractive synthesis tones using soft sine waves. It's a gentle palette, staying within a narrow range that delineates an overall project sound while putting focus on compositional aspects of the music.
Compositionally, this music is very much in the minimalist school of composition--I get Glass, Reich, Young, and Riley vibes all over the place. But the analog synth sounds place the music into a somewhat different context than one gets from most of the minimalist canon. There are occasional countermelodies/countertextures with harsher synth timbres more evocative of 80s 8-bit sounds--these often enter roughly halfway through songs, and usually introduce symmetrical scales or ring-modulated lines that intersect the otherwise harmonically-stable compositions at weird angles. Also pointing to the 80s are frequent ostinato lines produced with arpeggiators. Add in the notion that Giant Claw releases generally appear on cassette, and you get an interesting juxtaposition of 70s minimalism filtered through 80s 8-bit nostalgia.
Many groups have been playing with analog synth sounds, arpeggiators, drum machines, and sequencers lately, but Giant Claw makes especially confident-sounding choices. And the focus is on composition, with dry, clear mixes that stand in contrast to the many reverbed-out improvisations one often hears from neo-psych/Krautrock acts.
Cassette considerations: interestingly, my cassette came rewound to the beginning of side B, which opens with "Big Crush." Midnight Murder takes advantage of the 2-program A/B side potential of cassette (or vinyl), with generally denser and busier pieces on side B, and pieces that take longer to develop on side A. I only noticed that I had the track side sequence reversed when I downloaded the digital tracks from Giant Claw's BandCamp site. I think I actually prefer the recording opening with "Big Crush," which is a soaring yet rigorously sequenced Glass-esque romp through quickly shifting scale segments.
Speaking of BandCamp, I was delighted to discover more Giant Claw recordings there. One of the potential frustrations with reviewing cassette releases is that they're often produced in such tiny runs that they go out of print as quickly as they can be reviewed. I appreciate the Tong-esque qualities of releasing cassettes into a preexisting, close-knit community of listeners, but it's nice to review music that can still be found by new audiences who find out about music in part through reviews. There are six Giant Claw releases waiting to be explored through BandCamp, most of which offer links to order physical copies, too. Also be sure to check out Yakuza Heart Attack on BandCamp, which features Giant Claw mastermind Keith Rankin on keys. These are all very cool recordings deserving of a wider audience.
--First published at Killed In Cars