Valley of the Giants Valley of the Giants

[Arts & Crafts; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: Instrumental rock, post rock, Experimental
Others: Broken Social Scene, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Shalabi Effect

When you hear that bands such as Broken Social Scene, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Strawberry, and Shalabi Effect are getting together to collectively form a "Supergroup," many music listeners, like myself, anticipate that such an adventure will most likely be entertaining. Therefore, when I placed my copy of Valley of the Giants' self-titled LP into my player, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm and excitement. After several listens to the record, I am convinced that this may be one of the most densely atmospheric albums ever recorded. But that's not surprising, considering the bands involved in this project.

Based on Michael Crichton's Westworld, Valley of the Giants quickly showcase their emulsified sound structure with the spacey and grandiose opener "Claudia & Klaus," a mix of Shalabi Effect minimalism and Broken Social Scene down-tempo. But "Cantara Sin Guitara," two tracks later, is the real hidden gem of the record, with its sultry Mexican balladry and deeply mesmerizing Mariachi-style guitar strumming that takes the listener to another dimension. It is a massive movement away from the usual structure of every band associated with this record, exemplifying the restraint necessary to record an extraordinarily fabulous song without sounding like a confluence of their respective bands.

On the other hand, "Beyond the Valley" is a textbook GY!BE effort, combining every element that has made their distinct sound so popular. The down-tempo introduction gradually escalates to an overabundance of resonating sound, apocalyptically and catastrophically, only to suddenly reach a denouement of warmth and contentment. Shalabi Effect's influence also becomes unmistakable with "Waiting To Catch A Bullet," experimenting with drones and irregular guitar plucking that truly identifies and relates to any Shalabi Effect record that has been released in the past.

Overall, Valley of the Giants' debut LP does not disappoint. It is a compelling look at the concepts and successful formulas that have created a new resurrected stardom for some of Canada's best eclectic bands. But what remains uncertain is the benefit of purchasing this album. As a compilation, it is truly glorious, but one can't help but think that many listeners would benefit more by acquiring GY!BE's Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, Shalabi Effect's The Trial Of St-Orange, and of course, Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People instead of this release. Yet, Valley of the Giants are Valley of the Giants, and their debut effort is a superb album of eclectic music that will surely leave any listener pleased.

1. Claudia & Klaus
2. Westworld
3. Cantara Sin Guitara
4. Beyond The Valley
5. Waiting To Catch A Bullet
6. Whaling Tale
7. Back To God's Country
8. Bala Bay Inn