Giant Squid - The Ichthyologist
Review by Nick DeMarino (StonerRock.com)
Release Date: February 2009
stoner rock here
I’m not a patient person. I was stoked to hear about the new Giant Squid record last September when I got schooled by guitarist/vocalist Aaron Gregory, but by the end of the year my thoughts had drifted to things more shallow. It was thus a pleasant surprise to hear that the Bay Area quartet had a new record in store for the masses. Well, maybe not in stores - they’ve parted ways with their label and are putting out The Ichthyologist themselves while fishing for a new distributor. There’s nothing fishy about this: Giant Squid have a marked DIY ethos, bouncing labels and self-releasing first runs of most releases. The band’s history is punctuated by the migration of members from coast to coast as well as along the Gulf’. As a result their discography has only one previous full-length, Metridium Field(s), although their EP and split with Grayceon are both great catches.
If the progression of songs on The Ichthyologist seems alluring, that’s because it tells a story related to Gregory’s yet to be inked graphic novel (anybody remember The Resident’s Freak Show concept?). It seems to be a Melvillian/Lovecraftian tale of obsession and destruction. Trumpets, flutes, and other instrumentation flesh out pensive grooves over the hour long fishing expedition. Don’t let the melancholic adjectives scare you away - there are moments of triumph here as well. Apexes like the choruses of “Dead Man Slough,” “Sevengill,” and “Blue Linkia” provide necessary release valves for pent up emotional energy. Within the microcosm of individual songs, Perez Gratz’s vocals make a mellifluous counterpoint to Gregory’s nasally lamentations. Gratz’s forlorn cello parts are the sexiest facet of the music, although the rhythm section of Bryan Beeson and Chris Lymen are quite accomplished as well. “Dead Man Slough” - arguably the standout song - is a delicate dance wherein each member plays independent lines that intersect at surprising junctures. While there aren’t any sixteen minute epics on The Ichthyologist, all of the songs are substantial enough to quench the thirst of most listeners. By the time “Rubicon Wall,” comes up, it’s obvious the album has reached a natural conclusion.
The record is produced by ex-Minus the Bear knob-twiddler Matt Bayles, who’s worked on critically acclaimed albums by Isis, Soundgarden, and Mastodon, among others. Bayles’s production is immaculate, attenuated to such perfection as to be diaphanous. It’s akin to the first time you saw a puppet show, not so much ignorant of puppeteer’s translucent strings as willfully blind to them. The Ichthyologist is a powerfully emotive, original album that accomplishes the rare feat of having powerful singles that don’t disrupt the flow of the album as a whole. Along with Rose Kemp and Grayceon, Giant Squid are surfers on a cresting wave of smart, contemplative rock music that defies classification.
URL: band site here