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GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

G_d's Pee AT STATE'S END

    The inimitable GYBE returns with another soundtrack for our times. As the heretical anarcho-punk spirit of the title implies, Godspeed harnesses some particularly raw power, spittle and grit across two riveting 20-minute side-length trajectories of noise-drenched widescreen post-rock: inexorable chug blossoms into blown-out twang, as some of the band’s most soaring, searing melodies ricochet and converge amidst violin and bassline counterpoint. Field recordings and roiling semi-improvised passages frame these fervent epics, and two shorter self-contained 6-minute pieces find the band at its most devastatingly beautiful, haunting and elegiac.

    Poignant atmospherics, noise-drenched orchestration, drone, hypnotic swingtime crescendos, inexorably-layered towers of distorted clarion sound: STATE’S END encapsulates every beloved facet of the band. Twenty-five years on, this new album is as vital, stirring, timely and implacable as any in Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s storied discography. Recorded and mixed by Jace Lasek, the veteran award-winning indie producer (and co-founder of The Besnard Lakes) who works with Godspeed for the first time on this recording.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    says: There’s a lot to be stressed about isn’t there? The ongoing climate crisis, an unprecedented pandemic and a worrying spate of governmental and social trends all coalescing into a time of undeniable reflection. It seems like GYBE would fit right in then, with cars on fire (and the lack of drivers therein) and the suchlike being canonically, their bag.

    It might come as a surprise then, that while the classic themes of corruption, capitalism and greed are sewn into the fabric of this Canadian dectet, the accompanying music in this case is (to these ears), wilfully jubilant.

    You’ll have to bear with me on the track titles, because much like the actual titles of confirmed ‘Best Album In The World’ (Barry, 2000 - present), ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’, the tracks here are broken down into their constituent parts, and named individually, and sequentially.

    We kick things off with the first side of the 12” for you vinyl folk or what I believe they call ‘Track One’ for the CD crowd. ‘A Military Alphabet…’ begins with the newly fired up shortwave radios (for any of you that don’t listen to Set Fire To Flames a lot / at all, a brilliantly immersive and perfectly transportive collage of found sound and radio hiss), and slowly morphs into a similarly textural swell of strings and slowly trembled guitar. It’s really very reminiscent of the growing militaristic stomp of ’09-15-00’, the introductory piece from their last LP before their long Hiatus, ‘Yanqui U.X.O’, and is an undeniably necessary dipping of the toes before the full-spectrum swell and spine-tingling weight of the rest of the piece kicks in. It’s on the final movement of this 20-minute opus that carries all of the weight of the previous, bringing with an almost unbelievable levity. It’s an ode to a lost world, and a mournful but resigned grasp at the vestiges of a crumbling society.

    ‘Fire At Static Valley’ (the first piece from the 10”, or ‘Track 2’) is a shimmering, minor-key walk through the crumbling ruins, with tenderly strummed guitars and the ever-present strings both pulled and plucked, lending a sense of airy ambience and momentum to the rumbling bass boom, and culminating in a nigh-dissonant treble-heavy scree. It’s beautiful and mournful in equal measure, perfectly offsetting the uncharacteristic jubilance of the opener’s final movement before beginning our next selection of radio chatter and crackling hiss.

    ‘Government Came’ begins once again with the whirring crackle and oscillating drone of shortwave radios before a towering bass boom rises from the riotous audio throng. This is soon joined by a noticeably majestic sounding distorted guitar and monolithic percussive swells, drenched in reverb and delay, and alternating between barely noticeable melody and barely noticeable anything else. It’s not long before this characteristic unease lifts into a cathartic and intoxicating melodic counterpoint, rising into what is possibly the thickest wall of sound I’ve ever heard from them (and I’ve heard a LOT), and ending in organic panned sweeps of breathy instrumentation (didgeridoo?), and meandering guitar.

    We end with the stunning ‘Our Side Has To Win (For D.H)’, an undeniably atmospheric number, rich with incidental harmonics and a perfectly balanced suggestion of exultation and resignation. Slow chord changes gently growing over a background of flickering strings and shimmering pizzicato.

    It’s an album that takes their rightful anger of the early years, their moments of latent melodicism and tentative unease and brings them into one entirely cohesive and triumphantly essential album. A stunning, devastating return for one of the greatest bands of all time.

    TRACK LISTING

    12a [20:22] A Military Alphabet (five Eyes All Blind) (4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz) / Job’s Lament / First Of The Last Glaciers / Where We Break How We Shine (ROCKETS FOR MARY)
    12b [19:48] “GOVERNMENT CAME” (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 KHz) / Cliffs Gaze / Cliffs’ Gaze At Empty Waters’ Rise / ASHES TO SEA Or NEARER TO THEE


    10a [5:58] Fire At Static Valley
    10b [6:30] OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H.)

    Once again, I heard the announcement, got excited and (not so patiently) waited. I guess I should be grateful that the time between announcement and release is exponentially smaller with most of Constellation's releases, this one even more so. Godspeed You! Black Emperor have returned for the first time since 2015's 'Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress' with the monolithic behemoth that is 'Luciferian Towers'. From the very first moments of 'Undoing A Luciferian Towers' we get the richly evocative post-apocalyptic tremolo they've become so well known for, which slowly and purposefully grows, turning and writhing into a twisted mass of spine-tingling euphoria and tentative glimmers of light. I'm not entirely sure how reasonably simple chord changes can become such overwhelming tectonic shifts, but the evidence is plain for all to see, all encompassing darkness takes it's hold before bursting out into a repeated melodic refrain, soaring above the unearthly drone.

     As we move into the spellbinding trio of 'Bosses Hang' (parts 1-3) we start with a shuddering violin double-stop, shortly joined by a powerfully distorted, soaring single-note guitar riff, rising into a cataclysmic chaos that only GYBE can achieve. It is both meditative and overwhelming, and a whole world of contrasting adjectives reserved for bands that deserve them. Part two once again takes this quiet-loud formula but swaps out the reasonably lucid quiet section for a more unwieldy bowed maelstrom, keeping the soaring crescendo constrained within the confines of atonal chaos. Once again, a testament to the balance required to keep up this sort of fine-tuning of musicality and disarray, whilst retaining the spine-tingling highs of which we've become so fond.

     Fam_Famine once again hints at the repeated phrase suggested throughout this whole collection, with swells of string pushing through the fragmented patchwork of simmering drone below, glimmering glimpses of hope in an otherwise damned existence, acting as a superb counterpoint to the resolutely melancholic and stunningly beautiful closer of 'Anthem For No State'. Soaring tremolo weighted by off-kilter melodic bursts remind me in no small way of the (admittedly less frequent) glimpses of sunshine in 'Sings Reign Rebuilder', brought to earth with the static hum of the stunning Hiss Tracts LP, 'Shortwave Nights'.

    Comparing GY!BE to anyone else is in essence, fruitless. This is where it came from, and this is a concise and spine-tingling distillation of everything Godspeed ever were, and have recently become. It's a breathtaking and transportative wonder, brimming with melody, but balanced with an unmistakeable experimentation that only GY!BE can pull off. Stunner.



    TRACK LISTING

    1 Undoing A Luciferian Towera
    2 Bosses Hang
    3 Fam/Famine
    4 Anthem For No State

    Godspeed You! Black Emperor (GYBE) returns with its first single LP-length release since the group's earliest days in 1997-99. ‘Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress’ clocks in at a succinct 40 minutes and is arguably the most focused and best sounding recording of the band’s career.

    “If Godspeed around the turn of the millennium felt like a band of the moment, now, in a time of rapid cultural turnover and bite-sized music consumption, they feel out of step in a very necessary way.” – PITCHFORK. 

    “This Montreal collective still sound like nothing else…The Godspeed ethos of wordlessly eliciting universal truths remains as devastatingly effective as ever.” – THE GUARDIAN. 


    Working with sound engineer Greg Norman (Electrical Audio) at studios in North Carolina and Montréal, GYBE slowly and steadily put the new album together through late 2013 and 2014, emerging with a mighty slab of superlative sonics, shot through with all the band’s inimitable signposts and touchstones: huge unison riffage, savage noise/drone, oscillating overtones, guitar vs. string counterpoint, inexorable crescendos and scorchedearth transitions.

    Following Godspeed’s return from a long hiatus at the end of 2010 to begin playing live shows again, and with the hugely acclaimed ‘Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! release in 2012 marking their first new release in a decade, the group continued to perform regularly on their own headlining tours (and as headliners at many leading festivals), often including a new multi-movement piece in concert over the past couple of years.

    Known to fans and through live show recordings by the sobriquet “Behemoth”, GYBE has gradually distilled this new work down to a fastidious and uncompromising essence in the studio, with the swing-time swagger of the opening unison riff in “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’” giving way to increasing microtonal divergences and an exhilarating immersion in the harmonic power of massed amplified instruments, before collapsing into some of the most visceral and unalloyed noise/drone the band has yet committed to tape on “Lambs’ Breath” and “Asunder, Sweet”.

    The album closes with “Piss Crowns Are Trebled”, a 14-minute piece of vintage Godspeed, where ascending and descending guitar and violin melodies intertwine over gut-rattling distorted bass in 3/4 time, segueing into a pummeling four-on-the-floor series of sparkling, soaring crescendos. ‘Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress’ finds Godspeed in top form; a sterling celebration of the band’s awesome dialectic, where composition, emotion and ‘note-choice’ is inextricable from an exacting focus on tone, timbre, resonance and the sheer materiality of sound.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Peasantry Or ‘Light! Inside Of Light!’
    2. Lambs' Breath
    3. Asunder, Sweet
    4. Piss Crowns Are Trebled

    Hard to believe a full decade has passed since the release of Yanqui U.X.O., the last album by GYBE. Never a band to care for conventional industry wisdom, Yanqui was released shortly before Xmas 2003 with little publicity and no press availability, no marketing plans or cross-promotions or brand synergies, with back cover artwork tracing the inextricable links between major music labels and the military-industrial complex. Driven by word-of-mouth from a passionate and committed fanbase galvanized by the group's sonic vision and its dedication to unmediated, unsullied musical communication, the album found its rightful audience.

    To suggest that such simple principles and goals have become harder to maintain and enact a decade later is an understatement. For all the contents and discontents – for all the "content" – of our present cultural moment, the idea of circumventing the glare of exposure, the massaging of media cycles and the calculus of identity management appears quaint, if not futile.

    But Godspeed is looking to try all the same. The band wants people to care about this new album, without telling people they should or talking about themselves. They want to hold on to some part of that energy that comes with the thrill of anonymous discovery and unmediated transmission, knowing full well that these days, anti-strategy risks being tagged as a strategy, non-marketing framed as its opposite, and deeply held principles they consider fundamental to health as likely to be interpreted as just another form of stealth.

    The band has been carving its own path again since 2010, regrouping as the same self-managed collective entity it has been from the outset, making appearances at a tiny clutch of music festivals, and otherwise just touring its own shows. It's been a disorienting time to resurface, but it has felt overwhelmingly right, honest and good. We think Godspeed has made a new record that maintains if not exceeds the standards of their previous work – a high bar, many would agree.

    GYBE picked up right where they left off, and after almost two years of practicing, playing and touring, ‘Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! Delivers two mighty sides of music (bookended by two new drones) that the band had been working up prior to their 2003 hiatus, which they have now shaped into something definitively stunning, immersive and utterly true to their legacy. The future looks dark indeed, but on the evidence of this new recording, Godspeed appears wholly committed to staring it down, channeling it, and fighting for some rays of sound (and flickers of light) that feel righteous, unflinching, hopeful and pure.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    says: A full decade on from their previous release, Montreal’s instrumental alchemists GY!BE bring us their astonishing new masterpiece "’Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!" Having taken a hiatus in 2003 the band reformed as a touring entity in 2010 honing their craft again before unexpectedly offering us this new apocalyptic vision. "’Allelujah!" brings us two 20 minute sprawling epics in the form of "Mladic" and "We Drift Like Worried Fire" and two shorter drone pieces. "Mladic" begins proceedings with an Eastern hypnotic vibe which gradually transforms into a raging torrent of intense and menacing guitar noisecapes dipping and soaring to a thrilling crescendo. "We Drift Like Worried Fire" builds from a simple repetitive three note sequence into a monumental storm of euphoric guitars, strings and pounding rhythm section before falling back and rising again to a brutal and majestic peak of cinematic noise euphoria, it’s like Morricone gone punk. These tracks are bookended by two shorter drone pieces that menace with dynamic intensity, the calm after the storm! ‘Allelujah indeed!

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Mladic
    2. Their Helicopters’ Sing
    3. We Drift Like Worried Fire
    4. Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable

    Godspeed You! Black Emperor

    Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP

      Constellation's second vinyl-only release from Godspeed contains two long songs, and sets the bar for the sprawling compositions that would characterize the group in the years to follow. Side one is cut at 45rpm and features "Moya", a broiling cascade of upward scales that repeatedly explodes beyond its own threshold. "BBF3" on Side two clocks in at 18 minutes, and is the band's most lyrical, multi-movement music to date -- more elaborated melodic figures wind around an angry spoken-word field recording (infamously culminating in the recital of the speaker's poem -- verses lifted straight from Iron Maiden). Both songs were recorded with Dale Morningstar at the old Gas Station studio in Toronto.

      Godspeed You! Black Emperor

      F#a#∞

        "F#A#∞" was recorded at the Hotel2Tango in spring 1997 on a rented 16-track tape deck and supplemented with various field recordings. In the preceding year, the band had taken shape as a quasi-orchestral outfit involving most of the current players and had mounted a number of live performances combining multiple film projections with sense-rattling sonics., This is the first recorded document of Godspeed as a large band and is soaring, fragile, awkward, heartbreaking stuff. The opening monologue on side one (Dead Flag Blues) is taken from Incomplete Movie About Jail, an unfinished film by guitarist Efrim.

        Godspeed You! Black Emperor

        Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven

          This two-disc Godspeed You Black Emperor tour de force is considered something of a milestone of the post-rock age. The first disc opens with slowly drifting ambient droning, which gradually begets mournful strings and a distant, pitch-shifted evangelical sermon before an increasingly ominous thudding rock beat, guitars, glockenspiel, distortion, and bass come spiraling in to break things up for an ever-tightening crescendo. The following piece, "Static", is marked by the early arrival of a hauntingly sad melody (yes, an actual melody), followed by slowly accelerating beats and the ghost of a dying bagpipe--one of Emperor's truly majestic moments--which later segues into shopping announcements and more treated distortion.

          The second disc starts off with a sample of an old man reminiscing about the long-lost glory days of Coney Island. The music coasts on through the ashes of time from there, drifting with swooping guitars that sound like Yma Sumac vocals, building into crescendo after crescendo, with drums increasing, pounding, and expiring. The last track kicks off with some bluesy folk crooning that then dissolves into an evaporating haze of strings and guitars. By turns operatic, rocked-out, and mournfully apocalyptic, "Antennas" conjures deep emotions, landscapes, and even socio-political commentary, and some might sincerely argue that it also makes wonderful housecleaning music.

          Godspeed You! Black Emperor

          Yanqui UXO

            "Yanqui UXO" finds Godspeed at their most political. UXO = unexploded ordnance, landmines, cluster bombs. Yanqui = post-colonial imperialism, international police state, multinational corporate oligarchy. As for the music, well it speaks for itself, prime apocalyptic post rock at its best!!


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