Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a Canadian post-rock band primarily consisting of nine members, though it at one time grew to fifteen. That in and of itself makes them a bit different, but added to that is that they make some really good music. Utilizing every member, including the cello player and violinist, they never thrash away randomly and just make noise. It's always calculated and well thought out. Another feat is their incredible use of dynamics. This is evident on their second release, an EP titled Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada
. It continues the same ideas present in their debut, f#a#
, and features samples from a street interview conducted by the members with a supposed poet. The music here is wonderfully great and well composed. Sometimes eerily minimalist, like during the interview, and later explosively powerful. Being an EP, there's only two tracks that together total over twenty-eight minutes.
Whereas their first record consisted of three tracks each containing several movements each, both these tracks are singular, greatly composed pieces. Since it contains no movements to break up the songs, this is a much more coherent work than their previous. There's a wonderful sense of melody present here, as they use their instruments to the fullest to compose some truly great music.
The first track, Moya
begins with a quiet buzzing type noise, which I presume is a cello. There's very quiet percussion in the back, as some violin comes over the top. The violin gets a little louder and swings back and forth as it's bowed. The near silent percussion which was subtly present is now gone and replaced by the lone strings as they hum. The cello now stops it's droning buzz and joins in the melody. The strings fade away and are replaced by some soft guitar plucks. A xylophone twinkles in the background as cello returns with some more soft humming. The bass makes it's first appearance as it thumps along while the cello is hush. Another bass joins along with drums. They play along slow and steady while the xylophone tinks away behind the now present cello. Now what sounds like another guitar comes in with some high-pitched notes and is followed by another guitar and then the violin. They build up the music a bit, until the cello takes center stage and sings above the other instruments. It's spotlight is short-lived as it returns to the background. The bass chugs along in one ear while the violin plays in the other. All the instruments blend together and then some high-pitched guitar joins the fray.
Then the music changes melody and the drums roll, the guitar loops, and the xylophones clink. There's a massive buildup as cymbals begin hissing in a crescendo, the end of which is a near orgasmic release in which the music changes and high guitars take the lead. One of the best moments on the album, here, as xylophones return, basses thump, guitars shriek all at the same time. Then the guitars go a bit lower and it gets less intense. Then guitars disappear almost completely as the cello and violin return and take the mood of the song from bright and happy to sad, and lonely. Soon after, they explode back into the post-orgasm melodies while a gutair screeches in the background. Another guitar comes in the right side and plucks away. This is followed by another change of pace and return to soft, mellow cello work. The drums die out and leave a lone classical string group. The cello and violin are slow, and wonderful. This blends into the next song.
Blaise Bailey Finnegan III
begins from the aftermath of the previous track. Starting with slow, easy cello and some soft, throbbing bass, it's joined by a sample of a street interview. The man rambles about how he disagrees with the American government at first. He then discusses how long he's been writing and how much he loves open mic nights. All the while, the band is in the background restraining themselves, so as not to distract you from the interview. The interviewer then asks him about a speeding ticket he had recieved. The man proudly tells the story of how he went to court and "got smart" with the judge. "I don't repeat myself for nobody, I said. I says, I'm here to pay a speeding ticket. Not listen to your lectures and to hear you run your mouth for an hour" is just the beginning. The judge points him out on it, and the man responds with "..Why don't you just shut your fucking mouth for once and listen. I'm not gonna take your shit." At this time the band turns up the level a bit, as guitars twang and xylophones tink away. The man then gets quit loud and starts shouting as he tells his tale. He then says "I don't like the judicial system. I don't like anything to do with this country's government system. I just don't like it." This leads to "And I think it's pretty God-damned sad that they don't recognize their own country is a third-world, third-rate, third-class slum."
This brings a change in the music as everything goes away but the classical strings. They hum speedily a bit as a deep drum crescendo comes in behind them to leave nothing but silence. Some quiet guitar rises out of the silence and plucks a lovely melody. Another guitar almost silently strums in the background as the violin screeches softly. Bass makes an entrace and pulses along while some drums begin softly in the back. A crash is played as the drums and violin gets a bit louder. Another guitar joins and plays another melody a bit higher-pitched than the last one. Another crash and then one guitar screeches a bit while some snare joins the timpani sounding drums. All the while the instruments are increasing in volume, as a single cello lick plays. Suddenly everything dies away as it returns to the street interview. The man goes down a long list of firearms he owns. Among them being fully automatic assault rifles, shotguns, and several handguns. "Do you think it's gonna get better before it gets worse?" asks the interviewer. The man responds with "No way. Things are just gonna worse and keep on getting worse." "Are you ready for what's comin'?" asks the interviewer, to which the man responds "Ready as I'll ever be." He then passes on a little saying. Afterward he recites his poem, which is nearly identical to the lyrics of an Iron Maiden song.
Now the band takes center stage again. Starting with a lone violin, which is then joined by some soft guitar and little bits of keyboard. This builds a little bit, and then a cymbal crescendo signals the band to smash my fucking face in. Everyone comes in and fires on all cylinders, as guitars screech, strings soar, drum gallop and crash, and basses chug along. One of, if not the
best moment of the album, this part is truly breath-taking. A change of pace after a bit of that jamming, and a snare keeps a steady beat while guitars scream around it along with the strings. This explodes again into some fierce violin work while the drums flail away and guitars squeal. A return to what preceding that bit for a few seconds until everything resonates out into silence. A violin rises out of this, and plays over some very creepy ambient noises. It's both pleasant and nearly scary at the same time. This plays for the remaining minute or two, and then recedes into silence to end the album.
Overall, this is a wonderful piece of work. Some of the melodies are nothing short of beautiful and the eargasm in Moya is one of my favorite musical moments ever. The only real problem with this EP is that.. well, it's an EP. That and the part where people used to mainstream music will find this boring. It's a shame, too, as the music here is really, really good. I mean that, too. Really
good. Go check it out. It's at least worth a listen, no matter what type of music you enjoy.
(+)The music here is wonderful
(+)Great use of dynamics
(+)While instruments are layered all over the place, it's still releatively easy to pick one out and just listen to it
(+)During repeat listens, you may find something new, which gives it high replayability
(+)That aural orgasm during Moya
(-)With both tracks being over ten minutes, it may bore those used to more conventional song lengths
(-)It's an EP
(?)Do you know how embarrasing it is to cream your pants in public because of your uncanny skills at aural pleasure?
1. Moya -10:51 (All songs written by Godspeed You Black Emperor)
2. Blaise Bailey Finnegan III -17:45