Monday, 28 September 2009

Giant Squid - The Ichthyologist. 90/100.

Music is an evolutionary state and Giant Squid stick to that idea closely as they evolve from a hardened band with production values that look poor in comparison to this airy, light and refreshing continuation of previous jazzed up vibes and progressive structures that led to them becoming an acclaimed hit with critics and fans alike. ‘The Ichthyologist’ doesn’t deviate massively away from the impressive ‘Metridium Fields’, but it does incorporate previously unseen ideas into the mix, creating an experimental feel to the instrumentation despite some scathing similarities between the two portrayals. Behind the scenes, a few things have changed that have altered the end result of this improved full-length effort. Despite the appeal of ‘Metridium Fields’, in hindsight, the production was a fault hidden within the flawless surface structure that was the debut. Of course, as a reviewer, we’re called upon to pick up on even the most minor faults and though that is precisely what this is, the production has improved a miniscule amount as the band have changed their line-up and shuffled things around.

As previously stated, it has become more airy, thus allowing those soaring atmospherics to reach even higher grounds through the use of different instruments and differing patterns, though the song structures are mostly the same. Though I do consider music a game of evolution, there are certain bands who don’t need to call upon a change of style because they’re perfectly set where they are. Once in a while, a band who are in this perfect position, will change their style and what dictates their audiences emotions to no avail. Cries of “sell-out” are usually heard from a mile away as the band tries to impact upon the same fans, with different methods. Although Giant Squid have altered in some areas, and though this does give them a slightly different sound, they’re pretty much the same entity as they were whilst still managing to progress on from the debut to higher, more profitable grounds where success is likely to be better handled and garnered more efficiently. Former female vocalist, Aurielle, has since departed the band, leaving Jackie Perez Gratz to fill the role of female vocalist and implement a jazzier feel to the sultry female portrayal.

Aurielle’s voice, though appealing, isn’t as sexy or sultry as Jackie’s. Her voice accompanies the bass, guitars and, most notably, the trumpet sections of songs like ‘Sutterville (Vibrio Cholerae)’ with more precision and poise. The band, since the inspiring ‘Metridium Fields’, have definitely upped the ante in terms of possessing the listener by means of implementing a seductive jazz base into their songs. Each song is complimented by the soft sections tremendously and benefits highly from the experienced addition of session members including the wonderful vocal depictions from former The Gathering member, Anneke Van Giersbergen and other notable musicians who provide their abiltiies on instruments like the flute, oboe and violin. These classically, and jazz influenced instruments add a certain texture to the music which makes it unlike any other band around. Of course, mainstay sections like the ever present bass and cultured banjo make this record as dynamic as humanly possible.

In fact, old elements like the banjo give a strange Asian vibe to the music which I also picked up on during ’Metridium Fields’, but didn’t know whether I was merely hallucinating given the intoxicating melodies of the debut. It would seem I wasn’t as this intelligent concept record pieces together obscure talents into one terrific outing. I’m not familiar with the concept of this record at all, but I can still claim that it is interesting and has made me open to researching the grounds of this release, which has broadened my horizons in many ways. As I’ve read elsewhere, “The album is a concept album about a man stripped of humanity and left with nothing but the sea in front of him. He adapts inhuman ways to survive the shock of human loss and total emotional tragedy, becoming something else entirely in the process. The story is based on founding member Aaron Gregory's graphic novel of the same name.” There is most certainly a feeling of this in Aaron’s adept vocals, which portray a vast array of emotions including those aforementioned. His portrayal has altered slightly on this record from the previous. Despite this being a much more mellow outing, his voice has developed a hardened stance on the lyrical themes, as highlighted in songs like ‘Throwing A Donner Party At Sea (Physeter Catodon)’.

His voice stretches into the sea, pulling in the waves and crashing against the melodious soundscapes which ran things previously. His voice calls upon nature to help him exhibit the full force of those themes and of his graphic novel. His multi-talented personality, similar in sound to Serj of System of A Down and Scott Kelly of Neurosis, has further stamped his authority on proceedings by drumming up the ideas of this record himself and allowing it to possess him and flow out of his body through his expansive voice. At times, the evolving state of this band reminds me of Neurosis, whilst dealing with aggression, the band also flirts outrageously with soothing passages that are placed in juxtaposed positions. This allows the cellos, the flutes, the violins all to express their divine individual opinions and taint the soundscapes with their delightful touches. As a big fan of vocalists like Anneke, I am perhaps a little biased in opinion. I think everything she touches turns to gold, so of course I applaud her inclusion on this awe inspiring record, which isn’t afraid to flaunt it’s obvious talents. I think this record is a marked improvement and a hint at better things to come. A band to keep an eye on, most certainly.

No comments:

Post a Comment