“Giant” enters with a bang and settles comfortably into itself, low-key yet self-assured — embedding its sounds into the subconscious until they’re almost imperceptible. In that sense, the new album by Salt Lake City band L’anarchiste is a lot like the band itself, especially its own trajectory within the Utah music scene.
Behind its previous release, an EP titled “The Traveler,” L’anarchiste became one of the more buzzworthy local bands two years ago. (Salt Lake City Weekly named them “Band of the Year” in 2013.) Robert LeCheminant, who founded L’anarchiste, and his bandmates began making “Giant” not long after. In fact, LeCheminant began writing the material on “Giant” three years ago. They didn’t expect “Giant” to take quite this long, but school, work, money issues and eventual marriages set things back. L’anarchiste didn’t become forgotten, but the band certainly wasn’t considered top tier like it was two years ago either.
It all “pushed back the timeline, but in the best way,” LeCheminant said in a phone interview, “because we wanted to do it right. Even though it took too long in my mind, it was also the right amount of time, because it ended up being something we’re really satisfied with.”
“Giant” is a rich, patient, subtly dramatic concoction. It generally tunes into the same emotional frequency as other understated indie-electro-pop, but its palette sounds far more organic, fusing these sensibilities with both the fragile, folk closeness and orchestral grandeur of Sufjan Stevens. The album’s first track, “Shaker,” for example, builds around a melodica — a small handheld instrument that’s essentially a flute with piano keys — as it delivers chords and a rhythm one might normally expect on synths. When it comes to instrumentation, “Giant” often zigs where others zag, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The unique arrangements on “Giant” often bear repeated listens for their intricacies to reveal themselves.
“I actually like taking instruments that have a strong association with their sound, and changing that as much as I can,” LeCheminant said.
He mentioned the banjo, which has become a central component of L’anarchiste’s sound. LeCheminant bought a banjo on a whim after a band practice some years ago. He didn’t even know how to play it, but he liked its tone and wanted to incorporate it somehow. Local producer Nate Pyfer, who produced “Giant,” embodies the same kind of musical “why not”-ness.
“He just has this ability to draw out the raw creativity in people, I think,” LeCheminant said. “And I think he really knows where their strengths are, and how to focus on those, and knows how to open you up as a musician or writer, in ways that you didn’t expect before.”
According to Pyfer, LeCheminant went through this same broadening himself. Throughout the recording process, Pyfer said, LeCheminant began to really open up, and the final product is a much different sounding album than what it originally was.
“Everyone involved made a conscious effort to say ‘yes’ to ideas more than ‘no,’ ” Pyfer said in an email.
“Giant” has the kind of pensive, melodic sound that’s the Provo scene’s bread and butter. This familiarity is worth nothing. Though the members of L’anarchiste live in Salt Lake City, they’ve become perhaps more embedded in Provo’s music community than that of their own city.
“In SLC, I think they really like the rock aspects of what you do,” LeCheminant said. “Velour has been really great about helping everyone accept every kind of music that comes through there. And we do have a lot of support up in Salt Lake. But I think the overall scene in Salt Lake is a little more chaotic and in some ways, to each their own.”
L’anarchiste is quickly gaining attention outside of Utah, though. Jim Fusilli, the Wall Street Journal’s rock and pop music critic, penned a feature on L’anarchiste and its new album on Monday.
“On ‘Giant,’ ” Fusilli wrote, “the songs’ initial strands rarely suggest their ultimate destinations.” That’s L’anarchiste, all right.