Release Date: Oct 16, 2012
Record label: Constellation
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Experimental Rock
Adecade on from their split, this Montreal collective still sound like nothing else. Comprising two hypnotic 20-minute epics and two short, drone-based pieces, the reformed band's sixth album continues where 2002's Yanqui UXO left off, with a barrage of surging crescendos, drones and shimmering strings. The allure of the opening Mladic hinges on thudding rhythmic threats, all eight musicians lost in a storm of feral energy.
The latest from this Montreal band arrives per usual like a cryptic, doom-saying tract from an off-the-grid art cult – more or less what it is. Also per usual, it uses low-fi sound bites, neoclassical strings and neometal guitars in long, lyricless pieces that drone and crest spectacularly. During an eight-year hiatus, its approach shaped indie vernacular, from top students Explosions in the Sky to countless art-metal bands and even scene cousins Arcade Fire.
Around the turn of the millennium, Godspeed You! Black Emperor were the right band at the right time. They arrived with their debut album, F#A#?, in 1997, when the speed of technology was accelerating, genres were being shuffled, and people were thinking about where music might go. Godspeed, a loose and mysterious collective from Canada (guitarist Efrim Menuck seemed like the leader, but they preferred to be received as a unit) with an anarchist political bent who fused Ennio Morricone, minimalism, found sound, and metal-inflected noise, presented one intriguing possibility.
The first thing that any review of the new album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor will mention is the wait. The last time these guys had an album was in the November of 2002, Yanqui U.X.O.. The second thing any review will mention is the record’s title. ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! came to me in a gorgeous vinyl package, so I like to think that part of this title is an instruction to the postman.
In retrospect, we should’ve expected the sap being stored up throughout Maple Spring to be tapped by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As if it needed any reason to exist besides to mark the end of GY!BE’s 10-year absence from the fertile Montreal music scene, ’Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! feels something like a chronicle of the months-long student protests that gripped the Canadian metropolis this spring and arguably changed Quebec’s political makeup. “Feels” being the key word here: Their renewed position in the limelight hasn’t weakened Godspeed’s taste for opacity one bit.
First and foremost, I’m just glad there is a new Godspeed You! Black Emperor record: the last time I saw the band, last year, they were on such elemental form that the nagging worry it was all just a nostalgia jag was kind of heartbreaking. But nope: out of the blue, here comes the band’s fourth album. Or maybe not entirely out of the blue: if nobody seemed to know GY!BE had been recording, then versions of ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!'s two longer songs – ‘Mladic’ and ‘We Drift Like Worried Fire’ – were in the band’s set before they went on hiatus in 2003.
Let’s talk about what’s happened in dramatic, instrumental-heavy rock (some might call it post rock) in the 10 years since Godspeed You! Black Emperor released its last album, Yanqui U.X.O.Explosions in the Sky unfurled basically their entire catalog and became unlikely festival darlings, bringing the extended, carefully structured instrumental rock track into the ears and hearts of thousands. MONO enjoyed moderate success after moving over to Temporary Residence, Ltd., a label they shared with Explosions in the Sky. We saw Sigur Rós reach a broader audience by moving on from the screeching feedback and ambient noise it thrived on with albums like Takk… and Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor records are already events in and of themselves. They're made of huge, epic movements, towering sounds, textures and atmospheres that match the grandiosity of the band's name. But if you tack on the fact that it's been almost a decade since they last gave us a record, well all of a sudden 'ALLELUJAH! DON'T BEND! ASCEND! is one of the biggest flat-out music moments of 2012.
Godspeed You! Black EmperorAllelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend![Constellation; 2012]By Chris Bosman; October 24, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetDuring a 2003 tour, Godspeed You! Black Emperor were detained in the parking lot of an Oklahoma gas station for three hours on suspicion of being terrorists. Even now, such an anecdote hardly seems surprising. When the band played Pitchfork Music Festival this summer, they did so with no video tracking their movements, with no lights on the stage, with their backs to the audience, with a video of fires and desolate roads the only visual marker.
There couldn’t have been a better time for Canadian post-rock legendaries Godspeed You! Black Emperor to come back than the conclusion of 2012. The end-of-the-world jokes and souvenir shirts have undoubtedly worn out their welcome, but there’s undoubtedly a great many people in the world who genuinely fear December 20, 2012, and the supposed destruction it will bring. For most of us that day will be like any other during the other bustling holiday season; our minds will have probably internalized the fact that the Mayans likely stopped etching calendars at that particular date because, well, having made it insanely far into the future they figured that point would be as good a time as any to stop.
Mysterious Montreal instrumental collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor take pride in avoiding the hype machine; interviews with the band are about as rare as usable promo photos. So of course they'd drop their first album in over 10 years without any warning to the press or fans. Nevertheless, their return immediately provoked huge buzz, and the recordings justify the hype.
To someone who recently discovered Godspeed You! Black Emperor, care of the Montreal-based post-rock collective's first album in ten years, 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! is a new ritual. Sprung on fans at a show in Boston a few weeks before its official release date, the vinyl album is a mesmerizing gatefold with imposingly stark images and a cryptic poem (seen on band T-shirts since at least February of 2011). The sleeve houses a twelve-inch with two 20-minute avant-rock sessions and a seven-inch with two ominous, noise-laden drones, intended to be played in the unusual order of A1-B1-A2-B2.
This is without doubt one of my most anticipated releases of the year, if only to find out where they would place the exclamation point this time. The band’s last album, Yanqui U.X.O made our list of albums of the decade and summarizing it I said this: “Nowhere in the Godspeed corpus can you find music of such horror and tension” That was true until now. Previous outings had moments of gripping intensity, but they were punctuated with passages of beauty and grace.
One of rock's most emotive collective consciences return, nearly a decade after an indefinite hiatus, with an album that effectively says: we told you so. Allelujah! picks up where Montreal's premier apocalyptic instrumental outfit left off, setting the collapse of the first world to wordless music – by turns stark, or raging with guitars and strings, yet driven by compassion and hope. War criminals (the 20-minute Mladic) and the Quebec student protests (Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable) are two of their contemporary concerns, but We Drift Like Worried Fire packs one of their most joyous crescendos.
With thoughtfully crafted compositions so carefully rendered, Godspeed You! Black Emperor plays like a massed force that could show its mighty strength at any time, and can be equally compelling and unnerving when it does. "Mladic" carries an orchestra's depth; a thick cloud of guitar roils atop a layer of storm-cloud drums before the fever finally breaks at roughly 18 minutes, after which the piece rides out with a tribal stomp. The shorter "Their Helicopters Sing" swells in a six-minute drone exercise.
When Godspeed You! Black Emperor reassembled to tour in 2011 after nearly a decade off, fans were simultaneously excited and filled with trepidation. Despite the fact that there was precious little new material in the show, the rearrangements of particular tunes from their repertoire proved that they were still well invested in expanding on what they'd built. A few short weeks before its release, GY!BE announced 'Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend, their first new album in a decade.
When post-rock icons Godspeed You! Black Emperor went on hiatus in 2003, their career had reached a plateau. Their last album, Yanqui U.X.O., had received mixed reviews, failing to surpass the epic Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, though in fairness, not much could. Nine years and a slew of side projects later, Godspeed is back with an album of material written before they went their separate ways.
‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, the new album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, manifested as a spontaneous gift, quietly appearing at concert merch tables in early October and was soon heralded by a rising chorus of anticipation. The staunchly reticent band even consented to an interview with The Guardian, celebrated by Michael Azzerad as “one of the most amazing rock musician interviews I have ever read. ”1 Compared to the discourse and debate surrounding the new album, the music itself is somewhat of a non-event: two epic 20-minute-long LP sides, and a 7-inch of drone tracks.
Maybe we weren’t hearing them clearly enough 10 years ago. Maybe we’re still trapped in the ruined machine on the back artwork to F#A#(infinity). Maybe none of us made molotov cocktails even though we were given explicit instructions on how to do so on the back artwork to Slow Riot For New ZerÃ¸ Kanada. Maybe we still buy records from AOL/Time-Warner, BMG, Sony, and Vivendi Universal — the same four record companies the band flowcharted to the military industrial complex 10 years ago on the the back artwork to Yanqui U.X.O.
Godspeed have once again created a challenging, intense, evocative work. Jude Clarke 2012 Although they returned to the live stage in 2010 from a hiatus which began in 2003, this fourth studio album from the Canadian post-rock cyphers nevertheless comes as a surprise, its release – in contrast to the music it contains – silent and unheralded. And it’s a surprise that should please followers of this most exclamatory of bands (in music, as in punctuation).
When Godspeed You! Black Emperor gave an extremely rare and lengthy interview recently they explained why they had returned after nearly ten years away. The interview also emphasised their outsider status – the line people seemed to pick up on was when they spoke about either making music “that pleases the king and his court, or … music for the serfs outside the walls.”As overly thought through and, in itself, self-mythologising and somewhat affected as that interview seems it does encapsulate the idea of the band as true cult outsiders. ‘No singer no leader no interviews no press photos,’ that was their kudos.
How to approach a new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album? The exciting reappearance of one of the most politically vital bands of the last 20 years, or as an intervention into a changed historical landscape that renders their critiques obsolete? Reaffirmation of the dignity of indie, so degraded since F# A# Infinity came out in 1997? Or as experimental (whatever that means now) miasma; as a fractional addition to a monolithic body of work, or the best thing they've ever done. That title, with its almost parodically positivist screamers, is nicely misleading regarding the content of Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!. It would have been easy enough on re-emerging in 2010, especially given the somewhat lukewarm work that their sister act A Silver Mount Zion have been doing in the last few years, for Godspeed to play to the assumed image of what 'Godspeed' are: the big, parabolic structures, the soaring climaxes, the earnest politics that made sense in Seattle circa 1999.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, stalwarts of indie post-rock and millennial dread from the cultural epicenter of Francophone Canada, are back after a ten-year hiatus. More exciting than their new album, which appeared with as much notice as ceremony, is the chance for us slightly older critics to write about politics in the same ambiguous, non-committal way we used to back when we listened to Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000). Does it mean anything that Soundgarden, a pioneer of grunge’s meaningless anger, would release their meaninglessly angry King Animal this same month? Probably not, but the coincidence is useful all the same.
JASON ALDEAN “Night Train” (Broken Bow). The country singer Jason Aldean represents the rural middle of the United States as if he’s rarely been anywhere else. The songs on his fifth album, “Night Train,” maintain a consistent attitude about that generalized regional identity — not ….