I attended a live show of Big Gigantic at a local party in Charlottesville. The band is an electronic group but they use two live instruments to augment to the overall sound. The setup is Dominic Lalli on saxophone as well as a synthesizer and computer with Jeremey Salken on drums. There songs tend to start with a drum beat and different rhythmic loops from the synth/cpu set up. Dominic, after setting up the background synthesizer aspects, switches the lead harmony between his tenor sax and higher-pitched keyboard melodies.
One of the songs he played, a personal favorite, was “Polarize”. This song uses an intro heavily laden with electronic effects on the synth. The synth has liberal amounts of delay to create a wavy texture to the start of the song. The sounds are delayed so much that despite being on the downbeat of 1, they sound syncopated to some extent giving a relatively simple synth riff a more complex feel. He then drops a lower octave beat that uses a grungier sound to it that contrasts well with the higher-pitched and brighter sounds that preceded it. The drum plays a simple snare/cymbal/kickey rhythm to accompany the synth. The song then transitions with the same fuzzy-sounding synth instrument playing a simple groove with interjections of phaser-enhanced drops. The sax then comes in with another melody. It starts off simple with changes to match the groove augmented with some delay to give a less than stable feel to the sound. The rest of the song continues in a similar manner with the sax eventually both clean of electronic effects (minus amplification) and using some improvisation.
Another song, “Fire it Up”, uses multiple synthesizer instruments to create a very complex mesh of sounds. There is a higher-pitched harmonic progression that serves both a harmonic and texture role. The notes are played in a mix of 8ths and triplets giving the song a very interesting, off-center feel. The next section of the song uses this same harmony aspect though underneath a new element. A new melody with a bright phaser and some very high notes takes over with a simple riff starting with octaves then descending down to the root note. Meanwhile, the drums are emphasizing beats 2 and 4 with bass drums kicks. Overall the song is very simple but the effective layering of each component gives the song a much more complicated feel in an almost subconscious manner.
“Wide Awake” starts off with sounds very similar to Shepard tones and shortly after a bassy-synth instrument gives the beat to the song. It’s using a LFO but in a more mild manner than other electronic artist. The rhythm part starts with a dirty sound with some delay giving very filling background to the Shepard tones and sax. As the song progresses he cleans the bass sound up and removes the delay while maintaining the syncopated feel to the song. The abrupt pairs of 16th notes while simple drive the song through the chord progression while the tenor takes center stage. The song concludes with the same Shepard tones at the beginning and throughout the song.
In “Thinking Out”, the song starts with a bright, metallic sound with a very slow amplitude oscillation with the sound going in and out. A downward arpeggio of a mid-range synth instrument signals the start of the main part of the song. The drum beat drops and the amplitude modulation changes to a slightly faster and more irregular sound following the beat more than a set rate. There enters a single-note texture that uses a measure to build up and descend in volume with a “wah” sound. The main melody is mid-range and fuzzy sound with lots of frequency modulation to give each note multiple sounds during its duration. The different rates of oscillation in volume and pitch among the different layers give a unique feel to the song and works surprisingly well.