Context is everything. Nordic Giants are playing a gig simply because they’re in the Brudenell Social Club.
If the Brighton based post-rock duo were appearing in Leeds Art Gallery their self same set would be an installation.
Conversely, if they were in Hyde Park Picture House they’d be giving a cinematic experience.
Their self-styled brand of ‘claustrophobic post-rock cinema’ is an intriguing development of the core genre, which over 20 years has gone from calling for an end to the establishment to soundtracking nature documentaries.
Dressed in shamanistic, feathered masks that cover their heads and torsos they obscure the boundary between music and art house cinema by playing in front of two screens that show award winning short films. Unlike traditional projections or straight soundtrack it’s difficult to ascertain which is the primary art form.
The show is bookended by credits rolling on screen and ‘Through A Lens Darkly’ – a bleak piece that features neo-classical keyboard lines and uneasy trumpet part – concludes with a game ‘To be continued…’
It’s a blurring of genres that’s further confused by tracks having two titles: one for the song and another for the film. Hence ‘Little Bird’, which features recorded vocals from Alyusha and layers of bowed guitar, is accompanied by Andrew Thomas Huang’s video short ‘Solipsist’.
The track itself seems to take as much influence from Warp Records’ minimal electronica as it does Mogwai, although there are echoes of their soundtrack work for Les Revenants. There are also elements of a darker Public Service Broadcasting in the incorporation of spoken word samples that intone of a dystopian future that’s ‘dog eat dog until every last man is poisoned’.
Many of these tracks follow the standard post-rock template of initially delicate and mournful repetition leading to a visceral climax that clatters with analogue and electronic drums. Nordic Giants nonetheless separate themselves from their peers by dint of creating a truly immersive experience.
It’s hard to know whether they’re a band or art project but, for now, they’re captivating enough for this distinction to be irrelevant.
Gig date: July 31