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On ‘Deep Thoughts,’ Giant Claw forecasts the fate of music

| Monday, November 9, 2015

GiantClaw_Scene_WebLucy Du | The Observer

Classical Music for Dummies. Or millennials – whichever you prefer.

It’s the closest thing to a social statement that can be extracted from Keith Rankin’s latest release under the Giant Claw moniker: the LP “Deep Thoughts,” a collection of 10 ultra-modern musical movements for whom perhaps “lunge” is a better name. Nothing this blunt could be considered a movement – and, just as likely as not, blunt force trauma is exactly what Rankin has hoped to achieve with his recent output, beginning last year with the dizzying plunderphonics of “DARK WEB” and apotheosized here by the pointillist synths that rain throughout the album before a wide canvas of negative space.

I don’t mean to say the confounding lack of subtlety on this album is itself politically charged. Rather, I believe it functions purely as a means to an aesthetic end that – as the cover art stylizes so well – is all about plasticity. But isn’t that just what music as a form of artistic self-expression tries hardest to avoid? Fair enough – it must be why Giant Claw is listed among a growing faction of “anti-music” producers, who discard method in favor of madness. But I actually find the label inadequate, mainly because it presupposes that this is music in the first place, at least as we think of it. I myself would call it “sonic art,” insofar as it is less about the gross product and more about the exploration of new ground.

You’ll find that on paper the album is just as puzzling as it sounds in life. Plainly put, half of the tracks here sound purely like classical tunes digitized into MIDI files and fed through the drum loop of a toy piano’s “DEMO” button. But, in a sinister way, that seems to be the entire point. In fact, I would say the relationship between Wendy Carlos’ “Switched-On Bach” (with which this LP in fact shares many sonic traits) and classical music is the same as that between “Deep Thoughts” and music as a whole. In other words, if you thought Carlos’ digitization of classical music in the ’60s was a blasphemy to the arts, you won’t like “Deep Thoughts.” But if you thought it was a brilliant reimagining of old ideas in a medium full of potential, then this album’s aesthetic is right for you.

I ascribe to the latter faction. I find that, just as “Switched-On Bach” was less about the music itself (and had it been, it would have constituted a quite unoriginal work) and more about the idea and its potential, “Deep Thoughts” shirks the more straightforward beat-oriented schema of “DARK WEB” in favor of a far more abstract artistic creation. Instead of being a product of its time, it leaps a century ahead through the intestinal tract of fiber-optic cables and stares the future directly in the face.

But this album is less prescient than it is philosophizing. Neither I nor Rankin – I hope – believes this is what music will truly sound like 100 years from now, just as Carlos did not expect that electronic renderings of Baroque compositions would be the radio hits of today. Both cases, rather, constitute a mere contribution to answering a question that continues growing plump like a snowball rolling toward an inevitable demise: What is the fate of music – its past and present – in the chaotic future before us? Indeed, perhaps its demise?

Spoiler: The question is unanswerable. Otherwise, what was there to prevent composers of the Romantic period from composing jazz? What was there to prevent cavemen from dropping their sick Neanderthal mixtapes?

If you aren’t a poptimist, you may simply think that music as we know it is coming to an end. And that’s certainly possible. But though the idea may have a cataclysmic ring to it, it may simply mean it is to give way to something better, entirely new.

3.5/5 stars

If you like: Jerry Paper, Vektroid

Tracks: “Deep Thoughts 008”

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