Godspeed You! Black Emperor “‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” | Constellation Records
Montreal, Quebec’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor have traveled very far since their inception in the 90′s with a legacy that ushered in a completely different model and concept towards how a band survives in this world. With the hiatus of the group in 2003-2004 after their last full length Yanqui U.X.O. (2002), the music community has seen the arrival of a plethora of groups that stem from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor family with a desire to see the band reform all across the world. With new incarnations and different modes of sound being approached, there has been a small void in the absence of the energy Godspeed was able to bring from release to release regardless of how powerful each of these projects have become. In 2010, the world was shocked as Godspeed was awaken from a 10 year hiatus with touring, plans of studio recording and what seemed like full band activity resumed as if they never missed a step. The culmination of this reprisal in the bands spirit and working relationship has been experienced by thousands as the group has played select festival dates and small tours with the live show euphoria, abstraction and heightened state of expression that created such a loyal and dedicated fan base in the first place. Godspeed has always been the kind of band who do everything on their own terms and nothing has changed now that they are back giving more energy and output into the music community.
When we got word that the group was working on material that they left off on around 2003 and would be releasing a new full length with Constellation Records this year called ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, we couldn’t have been more intrigued and excited. I have always felt like every Godspeed album opens a door the minute the record starts to play and quickly closes it behind you as you walk in, not opening back up until the record is finished. The feeling of being encased and surrounded and eventually feel consumed overtakes my senses the deeper I dive into the music, becoming as much a part of the expression as the expression itself. Midnight listening sessions to the pieces of sound that capture my waking moments, Godspeed has always represented a pathway of sound that feels very right to me. Regardless of the technical prowess or compositional representation, it always contacts me in a celestial and uplifting manner. Maybe it’s the current landscape of music out or maybe it’s because it really is just that powerful and paramount that I feel the new album from Godspeed ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is the strongest and most honest music released this year. I don’t feel like I am listening to an album of songs attached together through track numbers when I hear this music. It feels more transcendental, more geared towards the arrival of something much greater than what consumes the masses. It’s transformative and alive, speaking of dimensions and representing spaces of the mind that feel eternal. The lush set of instrumentation and the size of the band has always afforded the group a much larger musical vocabulary than most and the band really uses every sound they have available on ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! to go the extra mile. As a whole, the album is at times sensationally exhilarating, towering in with the weight of an earthquake and other times in the deepest and calmest state that recalls the spirit of a sea that is mellow and docile. I have not been able to put the record down since we got our copy in from Constellation and I doubt I will for months to come.
The album is comprised in a very methodical manner, including two transfixing drone pieces that run around 6-7 minutes along with two elongated full band pieces that run around 20 minutes each. Beginning with the song “Mladic”, there is a field recording that is brief and makes way for the climax building that embodies the entire songs flow. An elegant calling to the pastoral lands of Europe come to mind with the first few minutes of the piece. It’s a meditation into a setting that feels very natural and enlarged, a setting I have only been afforded an opportunity to slow down in with a handful of experiences through my life. The guitar that bridges this harmonically restful state is drenched in distortion and creates a wavering essence. In my mind, this movement transposes the vision of a bee hovering in and out of a garden, processing its surroundings. More guitar becomes present but moves like falling stars in a brightly lit sky, shooting in short tracer like intervals into unique shapes and patterns of trails. Atonal in structure, there is a feeling of an awakening that overcomes this intro section of “Mladic” that feels perfect for a band who took so much time away from the music community as a unit. An elaborate and lush state of sound spirals in and out of each other, creating a labyrinth of texture that is compelled forward by short phrases of percussive build up. As the percussion surmounts in weight and size, the momentum and elevation of the track takes full flight and the remembrance of what this band can only achieve takes on full view.
As the music stabilizes into a cohesive melodic direction, the contortion of experimental passages embedded deep inside the music begins to take a front seat. Guitar’s squeal and dismantle into liquid states as the juxtaposed charging riffs build up pillars of strength and gust. The bass work runs through the music like a flowing river of water, always staying determined to steer this sonic voyage into a centered passage and relying on a smooth tone through out. I have always felt the bass work of Godspeed was a defining element to what allows many of the instrumentation to seamlessly fall into the mix so gently and to jump back into the upper register with such ease. The drums are recorded in a lighter aura, showing the tonality of the drums and not so much the presence of over priced mics and post studio effects. As a band who plays very loud, I can only imagine how many other instruments were bleeding into those drum mics and I love the results it has on the overall aesthetic of how the drums come across. The effect of the drum sound feels like opening the pages of a 19th century book or staring into a painting sourced 100′s of years before this age. Very much intact and in full perspective, it still moves with that hint of power and dynamics most rock based drummers are known for.
The moment in “Mladic” that really grabs my entire senses and jolts me into a state of awe and admiration comes in the short interval that occurs at exactly the 11:00 minute mark and on. The dominating energy of much of the song lays to rest for an exercise into a spiritual demolition of the guitar and all it stands for. The track takes a small interval to breath before this demolition occurs, removing everything but guitar, bass and drums into a hazy and mystic stage of expression. As the melodic climaxing begins, the guitar separates into fragments through motion, sounding as if the guitar was being pulled through an industrial size grinding machine. The guitars quickly re-collect themselves as the slippery and wavering sense of rhythm runs off into eternity around tentacle like melodies. There is a dual state of doom and exoneration; light and darkness if you will that doesn’t have division lines, it’s all coalesced into one form. The ending features another field recording, this one sounding like it comes from a percussive street performance on a busy avenue with the faint sound of people and drivers sounding their horns in the background. It’s a beautiful ending to a stellar instrumental song rooted in the deep elegance of the Godspeed sound.
The second track to the album, “Their Helicopters’ Sing” is the first of two drone pieces and taps into some deep sonic territory. This was the side of the Godspeed sound that I always yearned for, always waited patiently through the albums to find myself in these states. Not taking away from the other pathways they take but the ability for their music to raise the hairs on my body the way a track like “Their Helicopters’ Sing” does is a large reason I have come to respect this band so much. Immersed in a dim, hazy and misty garden of sound, this is music that I connect with the most in the world. Stretched out forms of sonic tapestry creates circles of movement that spiral inward and outward like the breathing motion of the human heart. As the song slowly fades in, what sounds like wind rushing through an open field gravitates the mood towards a subdued and peaceful state. The drones slowly build over one another, creating different dimensions of spiritual expression that saturate into one another in an organic manner. You can feel the outer edges of all the tones melting into one another as each particle of sound valiantly walks its own path. I feel so much and the feeling remains the same on every repeated listen. I recall my greatest moments in life when I am encountered with music this alive and glowing with this much emotion.
Continuing on with ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! we come to the piece “We Drift Like Worried Fire”, the second of the two elongated full band pieces. I feel like this is the more identifiable and traditional track of the album in terms of the melodic structure, the rhythms in place and how the instruments interact. Utilizing a lot of space and beautiful harmonies that hover like clouds in a huge landscape, this song is angelic and speaks of a European tradition to sound that shows the band most rooted in a distant yet connected cultural approach. Drums open up wider than anywhere else before and dynamically shift around the music with a cohesive state that is remarkable. I feel a large sense of the modern rock community when I hear this song that is altered with the elegant aura of violins, keys and other subtle, less abrasive instrumentation. The break downs in ”We Drift Like Worried Fire” that create the second half of the song bring a sense of space to the highest light possible. It’s a wonderful drive into a world of shape shifting tones and a field of dynamics only the most connected can achieve.
The end of the album comes in the last drone piece “Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable” and leaves the album in a beautiful wake that finally lets go of its audience and allows one to leave the worlds it created from beginning to end. It’s my favorite piece to the album and is something I feel comes from another world. Highly processed guitars surmount to spheres and shapes of sound I could never come close to describing, only the feeling I grab is obtainable in description. Feeling very connected into something very big and much bigger than myself, it’s a type of energy in sound that leaves me astonished on every listen. As the momentum of the drone layers channels a sea of emotions into more layers that drift into every motion possible, the music drops out and leaves the tracing almost howl like remnants of its under side to witness before departure commences. This is the music that I feel is of a spiritual reasoning and ushers in something the world needs.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s is music that I live for and is an expression of the 21st century that will live far beyond the time it was created. Godspeed is back and things have never felt better in the music world in these trying and hard times.
Order the record from Constellation Records by Clicking Here