Various Artists – We Hovered With Short Wings – A Gizeh Records Compilation

Posted: 6 December 2020 in Albums
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Gizeh Records – GZH100 – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve followed Gizeh from their very infancy, but first encountered them via their offshoot microlabel, Loom, back in 2007: Her Name is Calla were tour support for iLiKETRAiNS and the only merch they had was a CD-R of ‘Condor and River’ in a handmade sleeve of corrugated card. Around the same time – this was the pinnacle of the post-rock explosion – I bagged a copy of Glissando’s Loves are Like Empires with an actual wax seal on the containing envelope.

I’ve since purchased, hoarded, reviewed, and obsessed over countless Gizeh releases over the following thirteen years, not least of all releases by worriedaboutsatan, Shield Patterns, Last Harbour, Hundred Year Old Man, and Aidan Baker… It’s been a joy to see the label grow while continuing to serve a comparatively small community of musicians, often cross-collaborating with one another, and operating within a broad yet overlapping field that sees their work complimenting and contrasting admirably. The fact that every release has felt special, and has placed a strong focus not just on musical quality, but presentation, with quality artwork printed onto heavy stock

It’s the singularity and keen sense of label identity from founder Richard Knox which has been consistent throughout the eighteen years since the label’s inception, and that probably explains why their 100th release, We Hovered With Short Wings, isn’t a standard retrospective compilation – although it is a compilation, that instead presents twenty-one exclusive tracks from artists who’ve appeared on the label over the label’s lifetime. This is a really strong selling point: anyone who is a fan of the bands and /or the label, will already have the releases thus far, or be working on plugging the gaps in their collections, without the need for duplication.

The press release recommends this be filed under ‘Ambient/Post-Rock/Alternative/Experimental/Post-Metal/Neo-Classical/Drone’, and while most Gizeh releases recommend similar in various permutations, the joy of We Hovered With Short Wings is that represents all genres and pretty much all possible permutations of them too.

Disc one finds Some Became Hollow Tubes’ ‘No One is OK’ make the first plunge into heavy territory, away from delicate orchestral post-rock, although to focus on this is to perhaps overlook or minimise the range of the material on offer here, and the same goes for the second disc also, which opens with a deep, ominous swell of sound: Richard Knox and Frédéric D. Oberland’s live rendition of ‘Requiem for Laïka’, and passing into a rich arrangement of melancholy strings, picked acoustic guitar and soaring operatic vocals, it more or less encapsulates the label’s house style, but then Aging’s ‘Her Mercy’ turns bluesy, and it’s followed by the megalithic eleven-minute live rendition of ‘Ascension’ by Hundred Year Old Man, which brings the bleakest of bleak slow ambient metal. And it’s in this context that you really start to get the full picture.

This compilation isn’t about what they’ve released, but what they represent, and crackles, bleeps, and slow-rippling orchestral swells abound across the span of this immense and ambitious collection. Showcasing a broad range from ambience to doom, orchestral textures and layers of detail are characteristic features for almost all of the contributors featured here. Broad, sweeping strings that strike deep into the heart are Gizeh’s signature, and this is a label unafraid of backing art rather than promoting mere entertainment. That isn’t a matter of snobbery, but a measure of their confidence to stand apart and to cater to a small, niche, but devoted audience, rather than pursuing a larger market.

It’s an approach that’s clearly served well thus far, and this compilation appears to stand as much as a statement of intent as a celebration of achievements to date.

AA

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