Occupying a languid no man's land between atmospheric soundscapes and tranquil "slow-core" with a strident undercurrent of countrified twang (courtesy of resident "metaphysical cowboy" Dusty Wright), the self-proclaimed chamber-folk music quartet GIANTfingers is not an easy project to accurately peg, given its diverse and constantly morphing nature. Fittingly spawned, however inadvertently, from "incidental music" composed for a television biography on Andy Warhol, what started as the amusing dalliance of dreaming up "Velvet Underground-like music" for singer/songwriter Dusty Wright took on a life of its own. Using that premise as a catalyst, and welding it with the penchant for cinematic Americana that defines his solo work, Wright devised GIANTfingers as an outlet to uncharted territories. After a few line-up changes, Wright recruited master cellist Matt Goeke, whose impressive classical pedigree contributes an otherworldly presence to the proceedings far beyond simply invoking John Cale's screeching viola from the Velvet Underground.
Though a large percentage of their debut album specializes in pieces that arrive with the urgency of warm molasses, GIANTfingers don't just ooze. "Baby's On Fire," for one, builds gradually from a Velvety strut into a full-fledged lope with Goeke's cello matching Wright's vocal ire. Moreover, the radio friendly galloping beat of "Harder To Understand" (with lyrics based on a poem by Hungarian poet Janos Gat) features percussionist Yael's driving djembe. At their best, however, the band conjures up a seductive ambiance that recalls a warm desert twilight. This is especially true on the maudlin folk ballad "Tempest." Unfolding like a cinematic opus it begins with Wright's delicate 12-string arpeggio and climaxes with the seductive "siren" background vocals of Ms. Laura Fay Lewis. Throughout these 10 songs Wright's earnest vocals do help ground the proceedings from meandering too far off into the mystic. It's a fragile merger of seemingly opposed sides, but somehow it all meshes together like fractal design.
Don't be lulled, however, into thinking that GIANTfingers are just another gaggle of doped-up bohos in paisley shirts with poser haircuts. This is more than just music made by hookah-tooting navel-gazers. Unfettered by any ersatz notion of fleeting hipsterism, the members of this band were borne of a dizzying cross-section of musical origins and styles wherein they honed their unique chops. Prior to GIANTfingers, Matt Goeke had, and still does, leant his string-sawing skills to various classical projects, as well as the arty-experimentation of Church of Betty. The enigmatically mono-monickered percussionist Yael brought the exotic, inventive flavor of the African hand drum (djembe) to the table (providing a rhythmic element most droney ambient rockers certainly miss), and bass player Tony Oppenheimer hails from a comparatively conventional background of sturdy power-pop. A droolingly avid musicologist himself, ubiquitous scene fixture Dusty Wright has dipped his busy hands into a variety of projects, from the hearty American folk-rock flair of The Dusty Diamonds and the gentle alt-country stylings of the Wright Brothers to the proto-grunge garage-blitz shenanigans of the seminal Bastards of Execution (a criminally under-heralded NYC noise combo who briefly made long greasy hair, loud obnoxious guitars and garish Hawaiian shirts seems inexorably linked.) The unlikelihood of these seemingly scattershot elements alchemizing into the shimmering lush, otherworldliness of GIANTfingers only enhances their mystique. Witness then what these four souls have given birth to on their stirring debut. I think you will enjoy the experience. - Alex Smith, NYC