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Giant Claw - Mirror Guide Music Album Reviews

Giant Claw - Mirror Guide Music Album Reviews
On his latest album, Keith Rankin programs a virtuosic MIDI cello, tempering awe-inspiring moments with reminders of its synthetic nature.

Dayton, Ohio’s Keith Rankin released his first tape as Giant Claw in 2010, a pivotal time in the sound of the Midwest experimental underground. Noise stalwarts like Wolf Eyes, Hive Mind, Skin Graft, and Kevin Drumm had dominated the previous decade with their countless experiments in disquiet. Yet, by the end of the aughts, fellow Ohioans Emeralds began releasing gorgeous, kosmische-informed improvisations on labels like Aaron Dilloway’s Hanson, breaking open the scene’s stylistic barriers and laying the groundwork for Giant Claw’s first releases. Around the time Rankin released those unassuming synthesizer-based cassettes, he also co-founded the label Orange Milk, which subverted the identity of the region and built a global network of boundary-shattering musicians. Emerging from a critical moment in a scene’s evolution, Rankin and his cohorts challenge genre conformity by juxtaposing dislocated sounds in ways that reflect the internet’s most dissociative aspects.

Noise is central to Rankin’s music, but those pockets of pixelated chaos are surrounded by splashes of vibrant color and vaguely familiar fragments of melody. Due to his insatiable appetite for novel sounds, he’s repeatedly upended his production techniques only to emerge with a new aesthetic framework time after time. Synthesizers were supplanted by the plunderphonic bliss of anonymized R&B samples, fractured trap beats, and stuttering loops on 2014’s Dark Web, sounding at times like several SoundCloud windows playing simultaneously. With Deep Thoughts a year later, he recontextualized nominally cheesy MIDI approximations of choruses, pan pipes, and strings by twisting them into complex contrapuntal wanderings—similar to what Wendy Carlos might have conjured after taking a hit of DMT. While 2017’s Soft Channel unified these approaches, it was also more turbulent and unpredictable, full of moments where Rankin tried his best to induce sensory overload, a tactic he once again inverts on his new album Mirror Guide.

Four years in the making, Mirror Guide feels like the opening of a new chapter for Giant Claw. Previous albums approximated the immersive, endless scroll, where images, ideas, and sounds fly by, leaving pockmarks of dopamine spike and withdrawal. What Rankin has created here feels more like an open-environment video game; it is still digitally rendered and hyperreal, but there is space to explore, with variations on recurring motifs and even a central character: a MIDI cello set to pizzicato mode. That soft, synthetic pluck is the first sound that appears on album opener “Earther,” revving up to superhuman speed only to tumble back to a crawl, like a baby bird testing its wings. As the track progresses, percussive hits, synth pads, and an unquantifiable number of other sounds appear, but rather than quash the cello’s momentum, they accent its graceful melodic turns. On Mirror Guide, each element, no matter how aesthetically disparate, works to build a unified narrative.

From the creak of twisted metal to a sharp inward breath, Rankin’s concrete world is full of sounds that resemble reality, but it resides fully in the uncanny valley. Rankin’s programmable cello is capable of feats far beyond the capacities of its corporeal counterpart, often breaking out into spontaneous rapid-fire runs and striking chords impossible to reach with two hands and ten fingers, but the sound is deadened without any actual space to reverberate inside. Constant, rapid fluctuations of tempo give the impression of a machine struggling to imitate the way human performers stretch rhythmic phrasings to express emotion. The climactic moments on Mirror Guide often collapse into glitched static, as if the toil of emoting in such a dramatic way overloads a CPU otherwise capable of seamlessly rendering the labyrinthine environment. The cello is often heard brooding, imbued with human sensitivity, but in the world of Giant Claw, those qualities are clear approximations, hinting at the limits of technology to express the nuances of one’s inner world despite its power to transcend the limitations of the body.

In certain ways, Rankin is a spiritual successor to composer Conlon Nancarrow, whose pieces for player piano from the mid-20th century highlighted the machine’s capabilities to perform works that incorporated multiple tempos and numerous melodies simultaneously. But while Nancarrow took a utopian view of technology, Rankin conveys a persistent skepticism by envisioning a digital virtuoso cellist incapable of fully grasping the nuances of emotional expression. There is plenty of joy to be found in Mirror Guide, and abundant moments of genuine beauty that border on awe, but its brilliance comes from the composer’s insistence on tempering those moments with potent reminders of its synthetic nature. Like a sunset made brilliant by air pollution, the beauty is a reminder of just how deep down the rabbit hole we’ve gone.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Giant Claw - Mirror Guide Music Album Reviews Giant Claw - Mirror Guide Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, May 24, 2021 Rating: 5

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