Girih first convened in 2016 to begin work on what would emerge as their debut: 2018’s Eigengrau. Recorded and engineered by Mike Moschetto (Aviator, Harborlights, Dreamtigers) and spanning 6 tracks, the album received acclaim for it’s fully realized sonic aesthetic as well as its deft combination of unrelenting heaviness and graceful melody. The group also quickly established themselves as a powerhouse in the live setting; their knack for masterful effects usage as well looping and layering of guitars allowing the music on Eigengrau to take visceral new shape and captivate audiences on multiple regional tours including a slot at 2019’s POST. Festival. Towards the end of 2019, the group reconvened to begin work on what would eventually become their follow-up album. The result is not merely a continuation of Girih’s already impressive capabilities; it is an evolutionary progression in every tangible facet of their artistry.
Named after the Japanese conceptual philosophy of finding purpose and fulfillment, Ikigai explores things both wondrous and horrific across its 8 compositions. Recorded at Wachusett Recording Co. with Mike Moschetto once again at the helm, Ikigai opens with “The Mirror”, wherein threads of delicate guitar weave into themselves before the trudge of tribal drums announces the fast-approaching procession of metallic onslaught, trampling all in its path before riding out across the horizon. The somber beauty and string section of “The Door” swells like a slow breath taken in the dark, quietly exhaling steam before throwing open a door into a freezing winter night. Soon after, the foreboding drums in the intro of “The Key” grow from stopwatch-like rim clicks to the bombastic march of an ever-ticking clock until the band maneuvers out into unrelenting staccato riffage which grows massive in density before collapsing under its own weight.
In “The Ring”, the band unleashes their most dynamic work to date. Its opening section churns through unrelenting waves of open-nerve guitars and blast beats like a maritime vessel at the mercy of an ocean storm. Momentarily spared of shipwreck, however, it arrives in the serenity and expansive center of open water, swelling strings once again upping the stakes of emotional intensity before giving way to the true threat. The song’s conclusion arrives in monolithic fashion; the band erupt in a magmatic crescendo as if harnessing all the destructive power of an undersea volcano. Though the band have often cited Russian Circles, O’Brother, and Caspian as influences, there are myriad more subtle elements integrated on this outing. The bells at the start of “The Sand” recall the intimacy of Vespertine-era Bjork, the stacking of syncopated loops bringing to mind pre-MIrrored Battles, and the sludge of octave guitar at the tail of “The Frame” recalling the criminally underrated Young Widows. Closer “The Hourglass” momentarily sees the group conjure the ethereal heft of contemporaries Holy Fawn in the song’s opening moments before transmuting that energy into something completely their own, crashing and climbing amongst an unforgiving squall of distortion before fading out on the uplift of gentle guitar coaxing in rays of sunlight to dispel the storm.
Girih have emerged on the other side of the pandemic year to deliver a sophomore effort that exemplifies the very best of heavy instrumental rock. The album seamlessly journeys through gargantuan riffs, desolate tension and lustral release, as well as moments of breathtaking beauty to deliver art that reflects the totality of the human experience; the wondrous and the horrific. This art exists to be perceived and to be interpreted. Furthermore, like the best kinds or art, it has the potential to change perception and profoundly affect the listener. Although the outcome remains to be seen, the prospect of the gentlemen of Girih continuing to make damn fine art is a thrilling prospect indeed.
- text by Peter Stroczkowski