Reanimation – “Giants Hide Among Us” (Michael Shanahan/Reanimation, 2011, WIN091211)

Although Giants Hide Among Us is the first release from Reanimation, main man Michael Shanahan’s musical odyssey stretches back to 1985, when he co-founded Quixotic, whose sole CD release – A Leap Of Faith – was released in 1996. By that time, Shanahan had also founded Chicago-based alt rock trio (and later duo) Every Part of the Animal, who released Life Imitates Art in 1993 and Civilisation [Spirit] in 1999. In more recent times, he has collaborated with Washington DC’s Blue Sausage Infant, and BSI’s Chester Hawkins returns the favour, supplying “electronics and appropriations” on one track from Giants Hide Among Us. Other than this and a few other guest appearances, Reanimation is basically a solo project, where Shanahan plays almost all the instruments and vocals.

Giants Hide Among Us is unlikely to be a disc played at dance parties, being a concept album about life, death, loss and meaning, with primarily melancholic vocals and melodies. This is nowhere more evident than on the 13 minute album closer Diffusing the Bomb which opens with reverbed drones and soundscapes, piano (credited to Shanahan’s iPhonepiano app), fragile, and sometimes chanted vocals, and an extended noise-based closing section. In contrast, it is the two opening instrumental tracks, The Wheel of Life and Mara the Tempter that have the most “rock” sound, with looped bass grooves reminiscent of Porcupine Tree. It is on the latter track that Chester Hawkins supplies his above-mentioned electronics, which sound like they were appropriated somewhere beneath dark waters. The Beautiful Unknown starts with a single piano note, joined by tribal drums and what sounds like flute, although is more likely to be e-bowed lap steel guitar. This is the first actual vocal track, and it must be said that Shanahan’s voice is not his strongest musical asset, although the fragile delivery suits the cryptic/spiritual lyrical content. Single Song of All opens with mechanical pulses before breaking into a kind of sinister throbbing rock. The “I’m pulling away / I’m taking it back” vocal delivery here strongly echoes Porcupine Tree, while former Every Part of the Animal bassist/vocalist Brad Allen provides a spooky and multi-layered guitar solo. Repentance starts with strummed acoustic guitars and primitive beats, which are joined by hard-edged electric guitars that could almost have been lifted from one of Dave Brock’s solo albums. The catchy bass line of That Is All belies its questioning spoken-word dialogue on life’s meaning, concluding with perhaps the ultimate question: “What’s in it for me?”

Overall, Giants Hide Among Us is an album designed for solitary late night chill out sessions. The music focuses on melancholic atmospheres and answerless questions, rather than instrumental virtuosity or rock rhythms and chord changes. Those who enjoy immersing themselves in the darker, ambient side of Porcupine Tree will no doubt enjoy this trip through life, death and the infinite beyond.

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Reviewed by Pat Albertson

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