Review Summary: An enterprise that stretches far beyond the confines of Starbucks.
Beyond the cries of a higher cost of living, complaints of political turmoil, and disagreements with gas prices, there lies a much more sinister proclamation: that this modern age has effectively murdered the art of the album—the formation of an entire work that is designed for a dedicated sit-down listening session, all distractions rejected to maximize focus. It’s become common knowledge that the 21st century has ushered in a startling low attention span spurred by a flood of easily-accessible information. Whether this is a positive or a negative is a debate for a different time and place, but in the music world, opinions are decidedly mixed: are contemporary audiophiles unable or unwilling to stomach a product reaching beyond a 50 or even 40-minute run mark? In the throes of go-go-go lifestyles, it may feel as though the tide has turned against the adventurous artist; people are more invested in a market that can supply quick jams on the daily commute to the coffee shop or provide background noise for business. Carving this statement in stone is as equal a cause for hesitation as choosing whether it’s decaf or caffeine for today, since it seemingly gives collectives like Elkhsha credit for simply showing up. Taken solely at face-value, debut record Farther Giants
climbs above the forbidden waterline, tacking on a nearly full hour duration of music. Participation trophy aside—look, it’s a full album!
—what ultimately must be considered, short album or long album aside, is the quality of the contents. A random release from an unknown Southern California set deserves judgement based on merit as does any other disc.
Quantity can certainly exacerbate problems that exist in a record because an elongated experience inevitably requires a greater commitment from the audience; the band is requesting a notable slice of one’s day for practically nothing else except hearing their output and theirs alone. The crew behind Farther Giants
’ construction make it abundantly clear their objective is to bring all who lend an ear down a musical odyssey replete with reoccurring themes and instrumental subjects. Elkhsha carry to the table a mixture of progressive rock and progressive metal, often shifting gears from one to the other to suit a track’s individual needs. Keeping in line with the concept of maintaining dominant tones, the rock aspects tend to enter the fray with grace, accompanied by gentle acoustic strumming and delicate-but-purposeful clean vocals, whereas the group’s heavier persona rampages about under the cover of melodious riffs and harsh inflections characterized by a raw delivery. Journeying through the sonic landscape laid down by these elements directs voyagers across calm waters and over treacherous cliffs; for instance, the album’s lead in— “Strange Waves” and the subsequent “Letting Go of Defeat”—pair off naturally within this methodology. The introduction features an indie-tinged acoustic lead, restrained drumming softly guiding the song as vocal harmonies intertwine, the stream only briefly interrupted by an occasional outburst from the guitars. As this fades away, “Letting Go of Defeat” kicks down the door with a heavy melody and increased tempo, technical passages dueling in between moments of quiet to break up the onslaught.
Where the disc begins to tally up on the minute marker, however, lies in a voluminous second half sparked by the entrance of the 15-minute epic “Listen,” internally divided into five separate portions. Once again, stand up the song’s height to a standard of excellence instead of girth, and the eventual discovery is a thoroughly satisfying expedition that’s almost a miniature of Farther Giants
. For four minutes, post-hardcore-esque riffs control the fast-paced assault, the album’s synth contribution increasing its prominence by merging with the main groove in low bass notes or emerging in polished manners. Throughout the sprawling audial geography, Elkhsha recede their sound only to gradually recreate it brick-by-brick to an explosive climax; the middle of the opus hits a particularly memorable point where the instruments swell to a pleasant crescendo underneath choir-like backing contributions, further vocal harmonies and commanding screams. Completing the progression is a reunion with the slight indie leaning motifs expressed earlier as strings are charmingly plucked under a fairly hazy, soulful guitar crooning in the distance. The flow of the record should definitely be praised for the seamless way through which each listing transitions to the next naturally. “Secrets of the Shore” follows the momentum of its predecessor, its structure akin to a post-rock formation as a peak is gradually attained by adding on more elements, upping the volume as the track runs along. On cue, the pinnacle achieved there bridges the gap to a reintroduction of metal components in “The Healing of the Lost.” A jump from one tune to the next makes no sacrifices and never comes across as jarring, the genre fluctuations serving to keep things fresh.
The final destination of Farther Giants
’ expansive quest, “Already it is Dusk,” concludes in a way that summarizes all the listener heard along the way: previous lyrical topics return to tie in the story—intentionally open-ended per the band’s wishes—as familiar musical refrains make greetings like old friends. An operatic culmination closes the cover on the tale, the choir appearing once more with a melodic guitar gaining intensity while time slowly runs out. Something so laden with emotion may seem contrived in another context, but Elkhsha pooled their resources together to earn it honestly, not forcefully. There is no doubt a full album in the closest meaning of the phrase was presented here, and it somehow managed to avoid causing a need for a bathroom break. Despite stereotypes surrounding duration, the goods and the bads, Farther Giants
stocks its relatively lengthy lifespan with enough to stay engaged, leaving enough behind to remember the journey. Others have done this and have done it better, but for a novel collective that has seemingly so little to their name, producing a debut in an ambitious scheme and not falling into many clichés is an admirable accomplishment. Maybe that does allocate a bit too much approval onto Elkhsha for showing up, but in a world where coffee cups act as dictators over the realm of music, it’s worth noting that they showed up and played hard. And it was not for the sake of amount, but for what anyone wants from an album: it was excellence.