The Giving Shapes - Earth Leaps Up (elsewhere 011) HD
The Giving Shapes - Earth Leaps Up (Dousing, Gravity)
The Giving Shapes - Earth Leaps Up (Upstream, Shadow's Hue)
1. Dousing 4:53
2. Tessellate 4:48
3. Sightlines 4:22
4. Gravity 3:57
5. Upstream 6:02
6. Shadow's Hue 4:34
7. Faces 4:20
8. Mirror and Echo 4:16
9. Earth Leaps Up 3:20
all songs by Robyn Jacob and Elisa Thorn
piano, vocal by Robyn Jacob
harp, vocal by Elisa Thorn
recorded, mixed and mastered by Chris Gestrin in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
cover art by Meghan Hildebrand
designed and produced by Yuko Zama
p+c 2020 elsewhere music
The Giving Shapes
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
This project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters. Ce projet est financé en partie par FACTOR, le gouvernement du Canada et les radiodiffuseurs privés du Canada.
The Giving Shapes is a collaborative project between harpist/vocalist Elisa Thorn and pianist/vocalist Robyn Jacob that formed in fall 2017 at the Banff Centre for the Arts. This is the duo’s first release.
This project triangulates aspects of new music, creative music, and song-writing, combining their classical training and their involvement with the Canadian creative and indie music scenes. Though they originally met while both pursuing degrees in classical music at UBC in 2007, they share an interest in many musical styles. Their sound reflects broad influences from artists including Nico Muhly, Bjork, Jonny Greenwood, David Lang, and Caroline Shaw.
Thorn and Jacob are interested in merging the familiar with the new, and draw from their wide range of influences to create music that is honest. Their approach involves equal parts of intellect and feeling, pursuing both accessibility and experimentation equally. The process of songwriting varies from song to song, but usually one of them brings in a kernel, and the two develop parts together, parts on their own, then back to different possibilities together.
“The piano and the harp are a really interesting match because they are so related in timbre and function, but individual enough to offer each unique sound palate. The possibilities of blend, texture, and harmonic depth are really exciting. Robyn is an endless inspiration to me in all the things that she does. We have quite different approaches to writing (Robyn is more rhythm and pattern-based, whereas I am driven mostly by melody and harmony) so the collaborative writing process is really interesting and stimulating.” (Elisa Thorn)
"I like Elisa's integrity and devotion to her artwork, and her attitude in general as a musician and an artist. Also, it is a privilege to be able to make art with one of your best friends." (Robyn Jacob)
The Giving Shapes is a synthesis of their shared musical aesthetic and curiosity with their long-standing relationship as co-curators and presenters. Music from the duo’s projects has been featured in jazz festivals such as the Montreal and Toronto Jazz Festivals, new music festivals like Music on Main, and indie pop festivals including the Campbell Bay Music Festival.
The duo's sincere yet polished, cool yet warm, celestial yet humane approach towards sounds is integrated into a single intimate world of music with everything impeccably balanced. Thorn's and Jacob's ethereal voices convey subtle emotions, gently unfolding the narrative of their personal world into a unique space where the acoustic beauty of classical music and the accessibility of pop music humbly entwine around each other.
Earth Leaps Up by The Giving Shapes: A Short Review by Spencer Cawein Pate
The Giving Shapes, a Canadian duo comprised of the harpist/vocalist Elisa Thorn and the pianist/vocalist Robyn Jacob, make the most aesthetically beguiling and emotionally compelling music I’ve heard in some time; their songs live in the slipstream between pop and classical, composition and improvisation, the individual and the collective. With the release of their remarkably assured and auspicious debut album, Earth Leaps Up (on the always-exceptional label Elsewhere), The Giving Shapes have immediately leaped into the first ranks of my favorite living musicians. (Fans of Joanna Newsom and Julia Holter are sure to enjoy this album as much as I do.)
While Thorn and Jacob have only been formally collaborating as The Giving Shapes since 2017, listening to Earth Leaps Up gives the impression that they’ve been playing together for a lifetime–such is the intricacy of how their voices and instruments curve and entwine and braid together. Their approach to harmony and hocketing is prismatic, as indicated by the title of their lovely “Mirror and Echo”: Jacob and Thorn flow effortlessly between singing in exquisite unison to splitting, refracting, and reflecting the melody back and forth. There are so many moments of understated yet heartstopping beauty and grace to be found within nearly every track: the stately and gentle instrumental passages in “Dousing,” whose wandering notes fall like soft rain; the overlapping vocals and interlocking contrapunctual melodic lines of “Tessellate”; the tempo shifts in “Upstream,” which transforms from a lullaby into a rallying cry; and the piano arpeggios and koto-like harp in “Shadow’s Hue” (my favorite track on the album). Thorn and Jacob’s lyrics are smart, poetic, and unapologetically feminist (especially in the affecting MeToo-esque narrative of “Gravity”). Although often abstract, their imagery is nevertheless grounded in the grandeur of the natural world, the changing of the weather and the seasons, the shared sensuality of the body, the exuberance of the unfettered voice.
Despite its sonic palette of just piano, harp, and voice, Earth Leaps Up never becomes monotonous; its stylistic diversity encompasses everything from passages of choral music to inflections of jazz. Considered as an organic whole, the album reminds me of the celebrated metaphor of the tangled bank in the closing paragraph to Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: “It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”
Earth Leaps Up is a work of surpassing elegance, quiet confidence, and generosity of spirit (making The Giving Shapes’ name most apt). Its surface delicacy conceals deep reserves of emotional intelligence and inner strength. As Darwin put it, “from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
- The Light of Lost Words (2/22/2020)