It’s astonishing to hear that Gizeh has been around since 2002, and to be reminded of the albums that have appeared over that span ~ including some that we reviewed on our former site over a decade ago! Among our early favorites were pristine sets from Trespassers William and Conquering Animal Sound, but the album that put Gizeh on our list of must-hear labels was FareWell Poetry’s Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite. While many of the artists of the collective have gone on to other projects (many also on Gizeh), the combination of pure talent and raw emotional power, enhanced by the powerful video component, blew us away. This was followed in turn by Richard Knox & Frédéric D. Oberland’s The Rustle of the Stars, which also appears on our list of the 25 Best Winter Albums of All Time. Knox is the founder of Gizeh Records, and a live track from Knox and Oberland, “Requiem for Laïka,” is one of the highlights of the new set, as are separate compositions from each composer. Over the years, Tomorrow We Sail would take up the spoken word mantle, while winter music would be further represented by Christine Ott & Torsten Böttcher on a new score for Nanook of the North. The talent level has always been high, sustained by a constant influx of new talent to bolster the already remarkable roster.
Is there a Gizeh sound? I’ve been pondering this as I play the two-hour collection over and over. Remove the vocal outliers (Chantal Acda, Hundred Year Old Man) and the picture grows clearer, but not transparent. While the label has never shied from trying new things, and encompasses a great variety of timbres, the dominant tone is one of dramatic foreboding. This is apparent even in the titles of the new tracks, which include “No One Is Okay,” “The Dead Govern the Living” and “We Do Not Sulk in Shadows of Unbelief,” which closes the album. That last title is an apt summation, recognizing the darkness while hearkening back to hope, just as FareWell Poetry did in 2011.
As so many Gizeh acts are guitar-driven, it’s a surprise to hear the set begin with cello. Julia Kent has been releasing singles throughout the year, each one a marvel; “Nightjar” continues the streak. Her bittersweet intonations set the mood by producing a sense of wistful anticipation. The next prominent strings surface three tracks later, in the center of Otto Lindholm’s “Antigone,” barren and stark, part of a nine-minute mini-movie. In-between lies the captivating synth of fieldhead (another outlier) and the fuzzed-out rock of Some Became Hollow Tubes.
Already we have a taste of Knox’ eclecticism. His own sound embraces cinematic dark ambience, as demonstrated on the immersive “Dragging,” recorded as A-Sun Amissa, a worthy follow-up to his album Black Rain (I), released earlier this year. If Gizeh does have a base sound, this is it: the well from which all other sounds flow. Wind, strings and backward masking haunt Oberland’s “The Dead Govern the Living,” an eerily prescient title. The church bell and creaking timbres of Jean D.L.’s “Krabben” cement the association. As if to mitigate fear, the sounds of conversation begin to pour forth mid-track, followed by a child’s monologue. Field recordings also decorate Anders Brørby’s “Good Girls” ~ a loom, a piano, a hint of birds. Life will find a way.
We went down a rabbit hole to identify the origin of the album’s final emotional piece. Who are Of Thread & Mist? Discogs lists only one song, from the 2015 Ignus Fatum compilation Inception. That release provides a link to the slowsecret website, where we learn that the artist is none other than Knox himself. “We Do Not Sulk in Shadows of Unbelief” is simultaneously the album’s darkest and brightest track. It sounds like a person fighting through clouds of disillusionment, pushing aside fog and mist, searching for a glint of sun. The piece sums up the current human condition, but is also a summary of Gizeh’s attitude: we acknowledge the darkness so we will know what to fight.
Happy One Hundred to Richard Knox and the entire former and current roster of Gizeh Records; here’s hoping for at least a hundred more. (Richard Allen)