When your various members' musical day-jobs are playing in Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, the Shalabi Effect, and Broken Social Scene, what else are you going to do but make epic, improvised, atmospheric, soundtrackist rock-music in which a conjured concept of "environment" is the governing factor? Valley of the Giants center on a quintet of humans culled from that Québeçois community, the members first communing in a farmhouse somewhere, gradually piecing together the epic "pieces" that constitute the combo's debut disc. It's issued on Arts & Crafts, not Constellation, so here the ornate digi-pack is gloss, not rough, and the palette is brightly colored. Of course, that's just the jacket. Musically, there are all the delay-draped guitars and slow-burning violins that the scene can't seem to live without, and there're plenty of songs where things start quiet, get louder, and louder, then end up clamorous eight minutes later. There's a reference to a pop-cultural portent of society's decay "West World," a song inspired by the conformist-paranoia flick of the same name and there's plenty of liberal evocation of Old West landscapes, too. And, then, there's a song in which an old guy drones on in a field recording whilst the band play around his voice. That done-a-number number, "Whaling Tale," is possibly the best thing herein; with its narrator, an old-timey seaman, spinning a yarn about a rock penguin trying to avoid a swarm of feeding killer whales by scrambling about on whale carcasses being hauled onto a trawler in high Antarctic seas. It's a beautiful, beautifully sad story, and the song matches it wonderfully, the interplay between dialogue and music recalling the sounds of cinema, and not just the imagined film-scores of post-rockers. The only problem is that its icy Antarctic vista is at odds with the red-dirt-of-the-desert they kick up across the rest of the set.