Keith Rankin is one of few keeping his synth-led compositions playful, peculiar, and unashamedly bold. Last year’s Midnight Murder burst with color and tension, featuring opuses like “Big Heat” following hard-hitting cadences that were rigid on the surface but cleverly unpredictable. As the album’s pixelated j-card perfectly illustrated, Giant Claw’s greatest asset was its knack of putting Nintendo-influenced nostalgia into a misshapen, chaotic context. Rankin references past greats such as Jean Michel Jarre and Cluster, but never has his material under the Giant Claw alias been lost in the kitsch.
With Mutant Glamour, his official full-length debut, Rankin expands his palette as new themes (“mutation, fashion, sex, trash culture, our weird alien bodies”), methods of performance (employing both improvisation and orchestration), and instruments (saxophone) enter the fold. Even the album’s most boisterous passages, such as the opener “Brain on Cream”, may inconspicuously fly as standard Giant Claw output, but others carry arrangements too bizarre not to be recognized: “Empire of Summer” bounces along a shuffling snare and buries free-jazz sax at the volume of a car radio as heard from the sidewalk, and it’s heard upfront in the right channel on “Mutants in the Bedroom” wailing alongside a vaguely melodic sequence being stretched out of tune. Discordantly bleating, Rankin primarily incorporates the saxophone to stress a given work’s pandemonium. Elsewhere it’s used to his harmonic advantage, subtly giving way to the meticulous detail in his electronics.
The length of Mutant Glamour’s side-closing tracks (“LA Christ”, “Trapped in the Mirror”) may already showcase Rankin’s careful artistry, but some of its finest moments are the most fleeting. “Glitter Logic” has a graceful flutter to its patch, and its absent rhythm section allows it to lithely introduce whistling leads and flickers of vibrato; and on “Man or Cream” spiraling sax winds intertwine in lush harmony, later channeling a call and response on opposite ends of throbbing synth squiggles. To some, Mutant Glamour may read as a blur of 8-bit clutter through a lens of kosmische glorification, but I see it as testament to its solidarity. Here Giant Claw is more complexly layered than ever, and analyzing the prismatic psychedelia will only give you a headache.
[Giant Claw Bandcamp]
[Stream/Buy Mutant Glamour from Orange Milk Records]