Omg omg omg. Little in the music world could make me giddier than a new, completely unexpected album from the (until recently) permanent-hiatus-or-maybe-broken-up legendary Canadian anarcho-post-rock outfit, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. So I might have a bit of a bias. Forgive, forgive.
This is a reflection on relation, to the music and to relationships formed, inimitable, as though we can form meaningful living relationships with non-living things. What do I have to say about Godspeed You! Black Emperor?
If you didn’t know, and I don’t mean to be condescending here, post-rock is this super cool genre defined by the use of instruments associated with traditional rock genres to create music which is decidedly not rock. Tracks tends to have these quiet openings which build towards massive jams with a billion instruments. They then slow down and fall back down to these drone-filled valleys, and build back up again and peak, etc. This goes on for like twenty minutes per track. It’s typically purely instrumental save for occasional vocal sample.
I was introduced to GY!BE in Middle School by my older brother, and they became the only interesting or notable part of my music library. East Hastings and the Dead Flag Blues sat, mourning and uncomfortable, surrounded, flanked, as they were, by Blink 182 and Linkin Park.
I was, at the stupid time, infatuated with their anarchy and their Canadian national identity. Often, I was brought to tears by the incredible crescendo (a term so often used when describing this sort of band) of Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. The vastness, the void, implied by a guitar, that guitar, whose tones reverberant, distant walls. And that voice is joined by others. In short order she is surrounded by friends and the faithful in a sort of screaming victory that makes me want, crying, to shout in brotherhood, to tremble in common vibration, to leave home tonight and never come back, and make love which is triumphant and grandiose.
So, all that being said, it’s not a terribly mature feeling. It’s the proud and perfect, non-judgemental, self-unconscious thought of a boy, twelve, who thought himself both a communist and an anarchist.
And this new album, like their previous ones, is as emotionally driven and unreasonable as anarchy itself. And I can’t help but over-intellectualize stuff, so I have to simplify: It’s only good if I enjoy it, so this is only good if I am mature enough (rather than merely pretending) to accept that immature things are just fun. And that’s good. And you retain, now, the ability to differentiate between the harmless and the other. Go, and remove your stupid defences. This is an album all full of rage and sexual frustration and fucking anarchy.
Though maybe it is difficult to hold post-rock up to some sort of rigorous critique. In form, they’re very comparable to jam bands, though they tend to emphasize virtuosity and pure musicianship less. It is emotional rather than technical playing. Godspeed have, after all these years, become masters of nonverbal communication, of the pure expression of simple emotion.
Honestly, I find myself beset by a similar lack of words. The crescendos take their time coming, but the drone is heavy and the guitars have bite. The first track, Mladic, is a release of ten years’ pent up energy. You burn calories just listening to it. Your neck tenses, and your hair vibrates sympathetically. And it’s all like that. It feels good. It is good.
There’s nothing I noticed that sets this album miles apart from Godspeed’s previous efforts, but damn. I like it, and I’m going to buy it.