London 18 August 2016
In a converted cinema in Elephant and Castle, protected from the outside world by the most stringent security this side of an airport, post-rock revolutionaries Godspeed You! Black Emperor are taking the stage. In darkness, of course, as is their wont.
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London 30 June 2015
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the once-elusive collective from Montréal, are now becoming an almost regular fixture on the live circuit since reforming in 2010. In addition to live activities, we’ve seen them almost double their late ’90s / early ’00s recorded output with the dual whammy of Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend (2012) and Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress (2015).
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Now Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven defined Godspeed You! Black Emperor for me, even more than their début F#A#∞ (1995-1997). Although that album’s “Dead Flag Blues” certainly glows favourably in my head, the rest seemed instantly overshadowed by Skinny Fists‘ scope, its harmonic exhilarations — those soaring crescendos that seemed far richer, more determined, taking the fucked-up economy and hammering home hope with holy unison. An impression further sealed after I caught their three-hour Scala show that year, a live experience which to this day has yet to be surpassed.
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Roseland Theater Portland, Oregon 6 September 2013
The double-billing of noise guitar legends Gate, the solo project of Michael Morley of The Dead C, and the newly rejuvenated Godspeed You! Black Emperor on a Friday night at one of the United States’ largest music festivals was an act of bold and challenging programming that should further Musicfest NW‘s reputation not only as a world class music festival, but also as a cultural force to be reckoned with.
Lady H. and I arrived early, after a Foods Stamp dinner at Whole Foods, and engaged in the time-honored tradition of standing around watching the punters, sprawled out on the wide-open floor of Portland’s Roseland Theater. I hadn’t been to the Roseland since my first few days living in the City Of Roses this time ’round, when I reviewed the mighty Neurosis at Musicfest NW two years ago. My head was swimming with
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I believe it was the great Neil Young who sang “…only Swans can break your arm” back in the dim and distant mists of musical history, and up until now he’s been right. No band other than Michael Gira‘s monolithic spacegod-baiting machine has ever had the capacity to damage limbs simply through sheer heftiness. But all that’s changed now with the arrival of the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, and in particular its opening (and topically-titled) track “Mladic.”
Starting with a cacophony of bells, strings and unidentifiable (by me at least) high-end stuff, it quickly settles into a relentlessly chiming groove, which practically screams “we haven’t even started yet, motherfuckers” at you. When the drums
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Label: Constellation Format: 2LP,CD
Yanqui U.X.O. is a record that demands time and attention to it’s myriad details as they shimmer past in a gathering whirl of music that sounds absolutely and profoundly played, rather than constructed, by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Recorded by Steve Albini with all his usual craftsmanship, this slow-building album coruscates with a stately emotional fire which reflects the band’s personal-political agenda of righteous indignation at the state of the world. Their own summation: “Yanqui is post-colonial imperialism is international police state is multinational corporate oligarchy.”
While the group recognise their own complicity as part of the corporate music industry through their record sales in chainstores, slip in sleevenote allusions to Ariel Sharon and the latest bloody Intifada and even provide a handy hand-drafted flowchart of multinational military-entertainment-industrial complex relations, they also point out “the new
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Label: Kranky (CD)/Constellation (Vinyl) Format: CDS,12″
Perhaps the criminally overused expression “intense” can be used with justification, just this once, to describe the sound of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The mysterious Canadian nine-piece roll out another of those accelerative weighty soundscapes that we’d always hoped Glenn Branca would produce.
Discipline and a telepathic, egoless sense of control push the multilayered epic “Moya” into peaks and troughs similar in spirit if not style to Can‘s twenty minute “Bel Air”. During the quieter passages field recordings of anti-establishment rugged individualist types confirm the Millennial intentions of this piece. The interviewer remains anonymous letting the subjects reveal themselves. There are no spoon-fed reference points and the question of
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