Review Summary: So, are you considering listening to this?
You have been waiting for almost two hours. It is getting dark and cold, but she still does not arrive. The train station is getting loner, and there is this annoying, almost disturbing silence. She could give you a call if something was wrong, but she is always like this. You have to wait. Every time you hear a distant sound of a train approaching, you are completely sure it must be her. Of course, after six times you start getting angry. Then you are sad. Then hope arises. Sometimes you question your relationship. For moments, you even get deeper and question your very life. In the end, you simply abandon yourself to whatever thoughts and feelings you may have, under the desperate conviction that it all be worth it. You kid yourself, but, what more can you do? Is leaving an option? What is time? True happiness is in the anticipation.
Godspeed is not going to follow the rules. There is nothing obvious on F#A#oo
; if you listen to it, you are warned: it is not a nice journey. Godspeed You! Black Emperor is not really a rock band, but they would like you to think so; it helps you to cross the bridge and enter their acid, opaque world. It is instantly clear they are comfortable defying conceptions, challenging you and breaking your patience into pieces. Despite its bleakness, their music is a constant promise of something great and beautiful to come. Of course, they are not going to deliver it in the expected way, what would be the point in that? Instead, they choose the most tortuous, long and unusual paths to get there. You are confused from the very beginning; unfortunately, you are also intrigued. Something like this must have a marvelous, stunning conclusion; therefore, you continue.
features these soundscapes thin and fragile like a hair, where balance is sustained and variety is achieved by adding a few more layers every now and then, changing or alternating them, using different instruments to produce the different tones and vibes. This proceeding is convenient because a sharp, worked contrast is essential to their purpose: that sudden burst of energy, that operatic conclusion, that sense-providing key event known as the climax. Everything on the album exists for, and only for, the climax. During several minutes you hear almost nothing; the tension and expectation rise; the rarified air is unnerving and there is no light, you can only but wait; finally, there is a small sign of resolution, a direction and a conclusion glaring on the horizon...or at least you thought so. Godspeed quickly changes the venue and start all over in a similar vein.
Astonishingly, what it is missing is precisely that conclusion. Sections or “movements” succeed each other, without achieving anything concrete. The music always is always transitory, pointing to the future, to the next moment; it does not have a present. Instead of making time disappear, it makes it more apparent. The long instrumentals, if at times suggesting, are excruciating as they are devoid of sense, deriving in music that is desolate like the atmosphere it aims to evoke. Vocals samples, subtle guitars, horns, cellos, violins, percussion, keyboards, all of this huge arsenal is merely used to color the diffused and amorphous picture that F#A#oo
turns out. All is overdramatic; the weirdness is used for theatrical effects, impact is favored over substance; it asks too much from the listeners without giving them anything in return. But with a little imagination, you can make up for it. You can talk about the imaginary it creates, how the masterful soundscapes bring up forgotten memories and reveal hidden feelings; how many subtleties and intricacies can be found; how it never gets old. Or you can talk on how masterfully it depicts the apocalypse; it all works. The music is so undefined and void that is open to any kind of interpretation. But, once you have heard the whole thing, there is no reason in listening to it again. The road is harsh, the destination, disappointing. There is no secret to be found, no mystery revealed, no self-realization.
Complexity here substitutes content, long passages simulate profoundness and originality tries to equal craftsmanship. Clever and unique on the surface, underneath its grave appearance it is all vain and empty. And perhaps this is the secret of its critical success. The album is weird, obscure, ambiguous, difficult and cutting edge enough to pass a tasteful, skillful and even mature work. If you do not like it, it is because you do not get it. Its greatest virtue is to serve as a stepping stone, as a reminder that you can always find new turns and be more ambitious: a lot of bands successfully draw inspiration from it. And yet, sadly, it must be said: F#A#oo
inspires more than it achieves.