A glittering disco ball cuts through the hazy smoke emanating from the stage, where the roadies are setting up for the main event. There’s excitable chatter from an intimate crowd made up of seasoned fans, and those new to the act. The anticipation is tangible. When they do finally glide silently onto the stage, the duo begin a cinematic, moving experience like no other. They combine their music with a selection of short films displayed on screens both in front and behind them. The films themselves are an eclectic mix, all designed to invoke the emotions of the audience, and drawing upon the feelings we all carry within our souls. Dark central themes like fear and intolerance, loneliness and even violence are offset by more optimistic shades of trust and love, hope and self-discovery. All are encompassed in a poetic mesh of audio and visuals as the music punctuates and reinforces the action on the screens.
There is also a sense of beauty pervading the entire set. A notable example is SOLIPSIST (Andrew Thomas Huang), accompanied by the Nordic Giants’ track Little Bird. The melodic vocals of Alyusha meld seamlessly with spectacular colours and the serene, exquisite movements of the dancers on screen. Sometimes the beauty is less obvious – METACHAOS, a short directed by Alessandro Bavari, visualises a hellish dimension populated by tormented mutants. The immediate revulsion these creatures induce is offset by an eerie, desperate intent to their movements as they infiltrate an otherworldly fortress, seemingly encouraged and synergised by the driving rhythm of the Giants’ drums.
Throughout it all, the Nordic Giants occasionally loom from the darkness, framed against the smoke. They bend over their instruments and never look their audience in the eyes, keeping the focus on the visuals and the music. Their choice of dress and the concealment of their faces change their outlines in the half-light, and the effect is to make them appear ethereal – almost inhuman, in fact.
Their manner of silent storytelling is passionate and inspirational, and they let their music literally do the talking for them. Excerpts of rousing speeches from great figures like Charlie Chaplin and Martin Luther King call for peace and unity. They echo over crashing cymbals and a melancholy keyboard as the coloured lights spin in their cradles to survey the audience, as if encouraging self-examination. Gentle, soothing chords from the keyboard guide the softer emotions, like sadness, guilt or empathy, while the thrashing drums shock the audience into anger or horror at the events on-screen. The pauses between tracks are brief, giving the audience just enough time to applaud before the bass begins to pulse and the action resumes. The result is an almost perpetual barrage on a visual, aural and emotional level.
The keyboard and ever-present drums are joined by a trumpet and bowed guitar, all employed to a remarkable effect by a remarkable pair of musicians. Their unusual style of dress and effortless fusion of music and movies make the Nordic Giants’ live set a truly memorable experience, one that must be seen to be believed. They occupy their own corner of a post-rock niche, and the renewed interest in their most recent UK tour proves that they’re unquestionably dominating it.