Godspeed You! Black Emperor
It’s not something that happens too often, but Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, the new record by Godspeed You! Black Emperor (just “Godspeed” henceforth), makes you connect not just with the music itself but also with the process of its creation. Excuse my indulgence, but through the almost 14 minutes of Piss Crowns Are Trebled, it isn’t hard to imagine eight people huddled together in a smallish room — some sitting, others standing, a few leaning against a wall — barely communicating or even looking at each other, just playing their instruments with a surreal sort of intensity, while a ninth plays around with film projections. And then, concurrently forming is a post-apocalyptic visual landscape, a bleak reminder that mankind has reached a stage where it’s already too late. It’s classic Godspeed, really, but it’s also something that never fails to take this writer by some kind of surprise.
The Canadian avant-garde instrumental nine-piece ensemble seems to exist in a different sphere altogether — like an idiot savant or an iconoclast or a revolutionary. This newest release sees them follow a pattern similar to 2012’s comeback release, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! There are four pieces on the record, the aforementioned album closer and Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’, which opens the record, being the only two “songs” on it (if you could reduce any Godspeed creation to such a simplistic notion). The other two pieces are sprawling drone compositions that play around with sound, not just aesthetically but also with the philosophical/intellectual idea of noise and the perceived consumption of music. Again, this isn’t Godspeed pushing the bar all of a sudden; these are ideas they’ve tackled throughout their on-off 20-plus years of existence, promulgating this same spirit through all their spinoffs and offshoots signed on to Constellation Records (a label that’ll probably get its proper due well after this surge of Canadian experimental music has dissipated). In the meantime, we do still have Godspeed, although it’s a shame this release — their first single album — is only 40 minutes long.