Love This Giant is the culmination of a collaborative project that began after David Byrne and Annie “St Vincent“ Clark were approached by Housing Works to put together a night of new music for charity. With both artists working on various other projects, a dialogue opened between the two, who developed ideas via email, occasional person to person meetings and occasional studio time when their busy schedules allowed. With the original idea for the new music to be performed in a bookstore, Clark put forward the idea of basing the collaboration around a brass band, who would be able to perform in an acoustic setting without the need for mixing or the complications of a traditional rock band. What unfolds over the course of the record is the result of two of indie-rock’s more inquisitive minds exploring the possibilities of what can be done within those constraints.
Album opener ‘Who’ perfectly sets the scene for what is about to follow- playing on all of the strengths of each artist. Beginning with a taut, churning horn hook that you may well find yourself absent-mindedly humming for days, Byrne’s vocal delivery varies from delicate croon to paranoid mania, his rhythm guitar work churning while Clark’s distinctive lead guitar stylings fuzzily repeat and twist the main horn riff, her vocals playing around his. The decidedly funky ‘Weekend in the Dust’ follows, Clark taking the vocal lead as beats skitter around her breathy vocal and angular guitar. The two distinctive vocal approaches play around each other throughout the album, sometimes acting as counterpoints to each other, sometimes providing sweet harmonies.
In eschewing standard rock instrumentation, Byrne and Clark allow themselves to explore the capabilities of the brass section: low end bass and drones from tubas and baritone sax while the horns run the gamut from churning raw funk, soothing orchestral arrangements to cacophony. Songs are driven forward, thrown off kilter or shifted in mood in a second. At times, as on ‘The One Who Broke You Heart’, a hot-stepping horn battle between The Dap Kings and Antibalas, they point things in the direction of the dancefloor, while the delicate closing fanfare of ‘Outside of Space and Time’ throws open the doors of the music hall.
Long time St Vincent collaborator John Congleton also played an important role providing the beats for the record, which Byrne and Clark then dutifully took apart and reconstructed to form the tracks as they are presented now. Electronic hits swarm around the swaggering, fanfaring horns of ‘I Should Watch TV’, and punch through the melodies of ‘The Forest Awakes’.
As you might expect from Byrne and Clark, it feels like the artists are intent on pushing things ever forwards. That isn’t to say there isn’t a familiar feel either: there are certainly moments that build on work from each artists respective back catalogues, Talking Heads ‘Naked’ and Strange Mercy’s ‘Cruel’ and ‘Dilettante’ serving as a foundation to build the experiment upon. At times, as on ‘Lazarus’, there are even hints of another David and Annie duo with a penchant for leftfield takes on pop music.
Love This Giant may have started life as a one-off experiment, but we can only hope that it is one that the two main protaganists choose to develop further in the future.
Listen to Love This Giant