Giant Claw, the musical moniker adopted by visual artist Keith Rankin, has created a most thought-provoking and sonically progressive work with Dark Web (2014). The album, released in September, encapsulates the totality of Rankin’s prior experience with sound collage, visual art, and music production in a way that is consistent with the sonic philosophy of the Giant Claw project.
Rankin, a visual artist and musician, began releasing albums/sound-collages under the name Giant Claw in 2010 right as he founded Ohio’s Orange Milk Records. An eclectic variety of music was quickly released through the label including Rankin’s very own electronic project.
From the beginning, Giant Claw seemed to have a unifying artistic vision — one that utilized the powerful synergy of visual art, sound, and sample. The albums were all varied soundscapes of synthesizers, heavy percussive backbones, and creative sampling. However, each LP borrows heavily from a wide range of artistic traditions with earlier albums taking inspiration from free jazz, noise, krautrock, early electronic music, psychedelia, and many others. Furthermore, more than a few albums utilize samples, motifs, musical structure, and accompanying visual art to express the core ideas behind such traditions. The project’s unique knack for expressing the core philosophies and cultural context of the genres it borrows from just exemplifies Rankin’s skill in production as well as in visual art.
This year’s release, Dark Web, is a digital tapestry of modern culture. This culture is not only reflected in the bubbling synths and cacophonous grooves of the album, but also in the core motifs of the work itself. From chopped and layered R&B samples, sporadic 808 hi-hats, and empty MIDI-based instrumental flourishes, each tiny element of the album carries with it the dualistic digitally organic nature of a post-internet era. None of the samples are used too long or too consistently, none of the rhythmic beats last longer than a minute, and none of the orchestral samples have a satisfying release despite stretches of repetitive, clipped sampling.
Each piece, however, contains short yet extremely satisfying organic grooves that get released every so often. The moments when the discordant tension of each piece converges into a rhythmic groove are the core of the album. The short and sporadically interspersed minutes in which the music rewards the listener for holding on through a flurry of harmonically dissonant soundscapes make the album into much more than the sum of its post-modern parts. And just like that, the beat diverges back into a collage of samples and synths. This intermixing of cacophony and pleasingly organic rhythmic beats makes for a challenging listen. However, this characteristic of the album is what makes this piece so culturally revealing. The way in which each element is utilized reveals the half-alive, half-robotic soul of the culture that the album was made in.
Reflected in the album art’s varying inspiration, from vaporwave to classical art to digital culture, Dark Web is a challenging, pleasing collection of soundscapes, grooves, and samples, all with the intent of revealing the hectic modernity of post-Y2K life. It does so quite well, and has thusly cemented itself as one of the top albums of 2014.
Article by Etan Khanal