I’m amazed sometimes at how truly prolific some artists can be. Some musicians can write music in various styles without a hitch, never feeling stuck in a certain genre. That is the case for the new band Giant Sky. The self-titled debut released on June 4th, and it an indulgence for the senses.
Giant Sky is the solo project from Erlend Viken, vocalist and keyboardist from the band Soup. A host of people back him up here, though: Espen Berge, Sverre Leraand, and Erlend Aastad on drums; Ivan Ushakov on flute; Liv Brox on viola; Vegard Lien Bjerkan on church organ; Eav and Sturla Fagerli Larsen on various instruments and percussion; and Myrtoula Røe, Eav, Marina Skanche, Sturla Fagerli Larsen, and Charlotte Stav on vocals. The production here sounds like a great expanse of thoughts and timelessness, and so the great number of people involved adds to that effect.
Erlend, through Soup, typically makes explosive, crescendo-based progressive rock with indie trappings. With Giant Sky, he is making music that is more pensive. Yes, many of the songs have energy and maybe even some edge, but many are more ambient, electronic, and ethereal in tone. The project has the label “alternative art rock”, but I feel like more is happening here. Let me explore that further.
The Bandcamp page mentions the sound as being a combination of the acoustic illustrations of Nick Drake and the cinematic genius of Angelo Badalament with the psychedelic pop of Tame Impala and the Blade Runner soundtrack (very specifically). That is a good start, but also barely scratches the surface here. The album, at any one time, may have the dark, cinematic luxury of Blade Runner humming along in the background, but with outstanding viola and neoclassical ideas on top of that. Add in bold acoustic guitars (though some burning electric guitars are present, too), whimsical melodies, some pop sensibilities, and a good, thick layer of dreamy ambience, and you will start to get the picture even more.
“Giant Sky” is simply an album you must experience for yourself. With some of the most satisfying keys and textures I’ve heard this year, I keep finding myself diving in for more and more. There is a sense of cosmic mystery, divine unity, and spiritual introspection that laces this entire record. Imagine, if you would, the scene in the film The Snowman where the young boy flies over the countryside with the snowman. This album contains very similar feelings and flow, only instead of flying over the Earth, you find yourself soaring within your own mind, and into the infinite ocean of the wider cosmos. What a feeling!
I cannot emphasize enough the power this album finds in silence and in subtlety. It engages us with rich, broad, and imaginative ideas, and many times those ideas are expressed through something as simple as hovering flute and tantalizing piano. Nothing is off limits here, though, but Erlend surely finds pleasure and satisfaction in simple, beautiful composition sometimes.
The album has seven tracks and is about 50 minutes long. Each tracks feels like part of a meaningful, purposeful whole. The single, so to speak, is called “The Further We Go the Deeper It Gets”, which has seven parts spread over just two tracks (and a short film to go with it). This song is ultimately about 15 minutes in length, and it is a daring, groovy track with some great keys, highly distorted guitars near the end, and a building flow that gets more and more exciting. The second track, which is “Part 7”, comes later in the album, and it is an abstract, ambient fusion of textures, space, and haunting vocal exercises. It is easy to feel like you’re floating in a void of stars on this track.
I absolutely love all the other songs, too. “Broken Stone” has a fantastic central hook, stunning viola, and a percussion-heavy ending that is extravagant. “Interlude” is a gorgeous melody of flute and piano. “No Cancelling This” is a delicate song that peaks mightily in the middle. “Out of Swords” is tender all the way through, with beautiful vocal lines and twilight keys. The final track, “Breaking Patterns”, is a lively closer with flutes, electronic tones, and great drums all leading the way. I love how the final moments are subtle and serene.
There is no denying how great this Giant Sky debut is. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and while Soup is certainly present in the sound, the album explores all sorts of tones, qualities, and concepts. It doesn’t feel as long as it is simply because of how stimulating, vibrant, and distinguished the writing is. This certainly feels like a colorful stream of memory, hope, and peace put to music, and I love it.
Find Giant Sky online: