Monday, March 21, 2011

Starting As People EP - Giant Hand

Starting As People

Giant Hand
Empty Room Records.

SCQ Rating: 70%

Kirk Ramsey has long been a word-of-mouth favourite in his hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, and thankfully it looks as though the voices are beginning to shout. Sharing a few of the precious tenets that helped Conor Oberst garner a devoted following, Giant Hand subsists on acoustic ruminations and Ramsey’s warbled vocals. The comparison only goes so far; Starting As People may lack the auteurship that reflected so much ambition in Oberst’s Bright Eyes project but it certainly echoes the heartfelt confessionals that few musicians can pull off at their most naked.

But that’s Ramsey’s gift and he knows it; Starting As People stands firmly in his backward-looking catharsis, usually quite raw with emotional urgency. On ‘Starting As People II’, this results in a series of one-off memories and provincial keepsakes made seamless by a softly rollicking momentum, allowing Ramsey to catch us up over the markers of a map. Following numbers attain a similarly latent impetus but fetch greater reach thanks to Rolf Klausener (of The Acorn), whose production sets Ramsey’s quirks in beds of lovely folk. Without the dulled ambience that soothes ‘Bones Are My Home’ or a steady percussion behind ‘Another Step Down’, Starting As People would putter the tight perimeter of Giant Hand’s template from beginning to end. And inasmuch evident from the likes of ‘Solemn Little Row’ – a desolate closing track of Ramsey alone with his guitar – his anguish becomes too tedious, his warble too incessantly one-note, for anyone but the most ardent fan to dig into.

For someone who began teaching himself guitar a mere year before Giant Hand was born, Ramsey’s songwriting grows increasingly accomplished with each release. Until he expands his limited playbook to cover varied moods and genre devices, however, Giant Hand's wise to stick with the EP format.

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