Review: Loud As Giants ‘Empty Homes’
‘Homes fascinate me; the rooms we dwell in and spend our existences in, I can’t quite compute it nor articulate it, but I feel it’s all full of loss and emptiness…’ – Justin K Broadrick.
Another month and another new release from the ever-restless mind of Godflesh and Jesu ringmaster Justin K Broadrick in the form of the Loud As Giants debut Empty Homes.
The project itself is the collaboration between the inimitable Broadrick and long-time friend, Belgium composer Dirk Serries who has released a huge swath of dark ambient music dating back to the early eighties and is possibly best known for his work under the Fear Falls Burning moniker.
For those unfamiliar with Fear Falls Burning, Series sought to carve out minimalist meditations on purity and subdued power through a combination of percussive elements and an expansive array of studio tools and instruments to craft expansive drone. It is this symbiosis that drew the two artists to a mutual appreciation of each other’s work that led them to tour (Fear Falls Burning supporting Jesu) and release the avant-garde Final + Fear Fall Burning album in 2009.
Some thirteen years after their last project together, Loud As Giants finally emerges from the back burner to try and convey a whimsical feeling of nostalgia for their fascination with the ‘80s culture they both grew up in. Backdropped by the pandemic and the modern-age notion of isolation, there is a strange detached sense of disquiet that drives the heart of this mesmerising project that doesn’t seek to dramatically revolutionise music, or even break new ground, as it often feels like a quiet, aimless drive through places you once knew.
Comprising of just four instrumental tracks that make up the forty-six-minute running time, each offering is a movement in and of itself that works alongside the other pieces, not to generate any stand-out moments, but to weave and interplay as they conjure the overarching narrative the duo seek to tell.
The first of these, Monument, begins tentatively as an almost underlying hum that grows into indie light guitar and pulsing drums that capture a feeling of space and light, like the sun breaking over the horizon in the morning, or an empty road lit by streetlights. Both of these images have been cited as scenes that conjure an emptiness and a sense of despair in the eyes of Broadrick. The swirling atmospherics advance the music at a granular level of progression as in his work with Jesu, focusing on how the music makes you feel, rather than looking to grab your attention with a scything hook. The seemingly meandering passages give your mind the chance to wander and surrender to memories.
Estranged taps into the feeling of alienation with a harder and darker industrial edge; as the harsher synths and ominous, urgent drum patter give way to more cavernous ringing that generates a feeling of being very small in a larger world. In comparison to the first track, Estranged feels distinctly urban and claustrophobic in the same way that the futuristic scenes of Blade Runner reek of a crumbling decay under the surface despite the technology before your eyes. It is all at once alien, alienating and unsettling as it ends with the finality of a cassette-like switch-off.
Broadrick and Serries have become masters at enveloping their listeners in dense walls of sound…
Room Three seeks to redress the balance, calling back to the rich guitar tones of the opener whilst the electronic dub percussion shuffles and thumps underneath like the world is waking and speeding up around you. No less focused and personal, Broadrick and Serries weave textures, slowly introducing sonic variations through the music that can often invoke, depending on your mood, different emotions.
The final moments linger on as the fuller sounds of the piece are stripped away leaving you once again in drifting contemplation, the feeling of loneliness apparent after the swell of the fuller sounds.
As the sci-fi film score-like sounds rise and swell on the final offering Isolation with fleeting beats and recirculating drones, it is easy to view Empty Homes as a conceptual piece of art. At times it appears cold, like the absence of comfort after recalling a memory of previous times, but also the sense that life around you has moved on.
Broadrick, when commenting on the inspiration behind the project, talked of embracing isolation when it is chosen, not forced. In this day of scattered family, remote working and an ever-divided world, these instances become thrust upon us, but conversely, with the ever-present technology that keeps us connected, the chance and choice to get away and meditate in the stillness can be equally good for the soul.
This is very much a project concerned with the aesthetic principles on which it was founded and one that has been considered through the choices made in composition. Both Broadrick and Serries have become masters at enveloping their listeners in dense walls of sound, whether they are as light as air or thunderous in delivery and here they capture the very real sense of emptiness, isolation and nostalgia without it ever becoming an oppressive chore.
For all the downtrodden descriptions and appearance of ideas Loud As Giants found as inspiration, there is a gossamer-light touch and undeniable beauty to what they have captured that doesn’t demand of their audience, it simply invites you into the stillness to take from it what you will.
Label: Consouling Sounds
Justin K Broadrick: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram
Dirk Serries: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden