Back from the ocean deep to the shores of San Francisco (by way of Sacramento) Giant Squid have returned to drag you to a far off island. In the process they'll teach you a thing or two, or crush you trying.
It's been three years since Giant Squid's last release in the EP Cenotes, and half a decade since their last full-length masterpiece The Ichthyologist and their return with Minoans will echo through the aquatic depths from whence they came.
The album's titular track starts the album off with harmonized chanting and gorgeous musicianship from cellist Jackie Perez Gratz and keys-fella Andrew Southard. This section envelopes the listener in a sense of aquatic tranquility before crushing them with a wave of doom as the rest of the band crashes in. Much of the album exists in a constant duality of soaring vocals and cello battling heavy doom. Whether it be a back and forth between the two voices of the band like the aforementioned opener, or the concurrent juxtaposition of them like on "Palace of Knossos" or during the closing moments of "Thera", the result is entrancing.
Giant Squid has always been about experimenting and being generally weird, and here they wander into the realm of sounding a bit like Tom Waits on "Sir Arthur Evans." The minimalist yet hypnotic song pays homage to the father of the Minoan civilization concept with frontman Aaron John Gregory putting on his best gruff hobo voice a la Mule Variations-era Waits. Actually, the album is a concept album discussing the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. History isn't my strong point, but through some casual Googling of the song titles I am learning some fun trivia.
In an unexpected moment of other artists coming to mind, "Sixty Foot Waves" conjured the early years of the devil obsessed alt-country band Murder By Death. The obvious comparison between the two bands would be the use of cello, however the chorus (for lack of a better word) of "Waves." weaves in the cello in a way that almost frolics beneath the overall feeling of despair the song generates. Couple this with the track's finale, and "Sixty Foot Waves" becomes one of the finest of the band's catalog.
My only complaint for the album might be something the band intended to happen. The calmest song, "The Pearl and the Parthenon" would serve as such a fantastic closer to the record. The song full of feelings of defeat and acceptance of an end that it just feels like a fitting farewell. However, there is one track following "Pearl." "Phaistos Disc," which is another highlight in the band's existence, ends rather abruptly and feels like a cliffhanger. Again, maybe this is the point.
The album overall sounds like the soundtrack to a crew setting sail for their final (losing) battle with the sea. While I love the lengthier songs from their EP Cenotes and their debut Metridium Field, it is refreshing to get same satisfaction of those epic tales in these shorter stories of sorts.
Giant Squid has yet to disappoint, and Minoans could be sign of the band heading towards new adventures, or it could simply an experiment that worked completely before the band returns to their epic tales from the deep. Either way, bring it on…just sooner than another three years, please.