Sunday, January 2, 2011

Godspeed You Black Emperor! - f# a# oo (1998)

f# a# oo opens with a quiet, pulsating drone. An emotionless but grim voice that conjures up the image of a Native American begins to describe, perhaps with sympathetic irony, the collapse of modern society.

the car is on fire and there's no driver at the wheel
and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
and a dark wind blows

the government is corrupt
and we're on so many drugs with the radio on and the curtains drawn

we're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
and the machine is bleeding to death

the sun has fallen down
and the billboards are all leering
and the flags are all dead
at the top of their poles

it went like this:

And then Godspeed You Black Emperor! proceeds to depict, sonically, the dissonant harmonies of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Long, sorrowful passages erupt into panicked fear-driven crescendos that die away amidst field recordings seemingly salvaged from a shattered world. From time to time there are even brief moments of joy and whimsy, held in check by the widespread devastation of the surrounding sonic landscape, but all the more meaningful by contrast.

East Hastings is my favorite track - particularly the movement titled The Sad Mafioso contained within. It has the controversial distinction of being the one song used for commercial - though tasteful - placement in the post-apocalyptic zombie film 28 Days Later. However, there is no better song for that scene, and were it not used in that film, I would never have discovered this band, which I rate as one of my favorites (and the epitome of post-rock).

But Godspeed You Black Emperor! is not about songs; they are a sonic experience, their ethos and atmosphere is contained in every movement they play. I read that f# a# oo was titled after the keys of side a and side b of the original vinyl, as well as the final piece which was a closed loop, thus rendering its play time effectively infinite. According to the wiki, the movements are shuffled a bit on the CD release, but in addition to Dead Flag Blues and East Hastings (each nearly twenty minutes long), there is a thirty minute piece titled Providence to round out this bleak, uncertain, yet ultimately beautiful aural experience.

I don't suppose post-rock is a genre that would be appreciated by just anyone, but for those who do, this is as good as it gets. And it is good.

Also highly recommended is everything else Godspeed You Black Emperor! has ever recorded. ;-)

No comments:

Post a Comment