Sensory Overload: Electronic musician Keith Rankin whips up transportive sounds with Giant Claw

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Keith Rankin, who records and performs as Giant Claw, connected a bevy of synthesizers, drum pads and samplers with wires during a recent Monday performance at Ace of Cups, but more often than not these cables functioned like synapses, firing rapid-fire impulses between nerve cells.

For the better part of 50 minutes, Rankin, seated on a short stool that doubled as mission control, crafted dense, immersive electronic compositions that blurred the lines between the digital and the natural world, layering harsh, computerized beats with more environmental-leaning effects, like one sample that sounded like the wet kerplunk of a stone dropped into a still pond.

The level of detail was astonishing, and even at the music’s most dense none of its intricacy was lost. The effect was like looking at an aerial map of your childhood town, where favored landmarks could easily be discerned amid the photographic sprawl.

One tune kicked off behind little more than an incessant drum thump, gradually taking on increased complexity as Rankin triggered various elements: a synth line that hummed like distant highway traffic, squiggly electronics and so on. As the song reached its apex, the musician smacked an electronic pad with a pair of drumsticks, eliciting a static-y buzz that made it sound as though he were taking out an angry hive of hornets one by one onstage.

Other times, the music felt transportive, and at various points during the performance it was possible for one to close his or her eyes and feel the sticky heat produced by an up-river journey through the Congo or the cooling air blowing through some futuristic spacecraft orbiting the planet.

In spite of its experimental nature, the music never felt academic or labored, and head-nodding grooves wormed their way through even the most psychologically dizzying cuts. Small, humorous touches also helped keep things from feeling too studied, including one beat that sounded like a chopped-and-fuzzed sample of someone saying the word “tap,” which Rankin triggered by, yes, tapping an electronic drum pad: “Tap, tap, tap.” So while Giant Claw certainly specializes in heady fair, the music takes even deeper root by refusing to ignore the rest of the body.