Valley of the Giants – Westworld

Since The Valley of Giants is such a fitting sonic tribute to the desolate grandeur of the American West, you would be forgiven for thinking it emerged from some Utah crossroads or West Texas county seat. In fact, Valley of the Giants is a Canadian group within the constellation of projects associated orbiting Broken Social Scene. The Valley of the Giants’ only release is a self-titled album in 2004 put out by Arts & Crafts. I typically try to find videos which show the album artwork, but made an exception for this both because it fits with the music and was unofficially sanctioned by one of the artists, Anthony Seck, in a comment on the video. He described the vision of the song thus:

The loneliness of our place in the cosmos, landscape as a metaphor for the soul, and a hope that even after the apocalypse, life can begin again.

You don’t have to be driving through red desert to empathize with that feeling. Liner notes point to another slightly menacing inspiration:

We sat back on the couch watching Yul Brynner all in black, with lifeless eyes and jingling spurs strutting across the mechanized psycho-desert landscape. Deirdre pulled out a pen and began to write lyrics based on the lonely murderous robot cowboy.

This may be the only release from Valley of the Giants, but its component parts remain active. The lyricists for this release, Deirdre Smith and Scott Garratt, were part of Strawberry, and Sophie Trudeau founded A Silver Mt Zion with Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s Efrim Menuck. This song reminds me a lot of William Tyler’s Impossible Truth release, which was inspired in part by the book Cadillac Desert about the development of water infrastructure in the American West. If I’m lucky enough to take another trip westward, I’ll be sure Westworld is on my road trip playlist.

Jessica Moss – Plastic Island

You may not have heard Jessica Moss’ name before, but you’ve probably heard her violin. She appears on Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s album F♯ A♯ ∞, Arcade Fire’s Funerals, and one of my favorite albums of all time, Broken Social Scene’s debut Feel Good Lost, among others.

Under Plastic Island is her first solo release, though she’s also part of At Silver Mt. Zion and Black Ox Orkestar with other members of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. Despite her connections to so many well-known groups, she clearly has a highly developed aesthetic all her own, blending electronic drones, violins, and beautifully manipulated vocals. For more information about Moss, check out her site. Though Under Plastic Island was released on cassette, it is only available at performances. Her touring schedule will be updated here in the future.