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: The buildings tumbled in on themselves Mothers clutching babies Picked through the rubble And pulled out their hair The skyline was beautiful on fire All twisted metal stretching upwards Everything washed in a thin orange haze I said, “Kiss me, you’re beautiful - These are truly the last days” You grabbed my hand And we fell into it Like a daydream Or a fever We woke up one morning and fell a little further down For sure it’s the valley of death I open up my wallet And it’s full of blood
Nearing the end of the decade – it’s been a crazy ride so far. Here we have a group that encompasses so much and defines the area of “post-rock” perfectly. Godspeed You! Black Emperor released their debut album F♯ A♯∞ independently this year and it got them noticed by key people up in Canada. Their sound is unique, like nothing I’ve heard before or after. Post-rock is mainly an instrumental area of rock music that uses traditional rock instruments (guitars/bass/drums) in a nontraditional way. It hearkens back to the days of krautrock and minimalism, but also throws back to classical music structures and movements. It is all about creating an overall sound with the instruments rather than throw a bunch of riffs and solos together. To add to this sound stringed instruments like violins and upright bass are used. For this particular album there are sound clips thrown in to cement a theme for which the music is supposed to support throughout the duration. This particular album is new to me, but I am familiar with a few of the group’s later albums, which don’t stray much from their traditional sound.
Now it is hard to really run through this album track by track because 1) these are not songs in the traditional sense where there are verses/choruses/bridge type phrasings and 2) it is three pieces broken up into a bunch of movements but not separated in tracks, meaning that there are three tracks on the CD with no finite point where movements change. The first piece, The Dead Flag Blues starts off with an audio clip speaking about a desolate place, with corruption and disease being everywhere. Then the music comes in, slowly and building up steam. You get traces of the minimalism concept from the guitar playing a small melody repeatedly. The strings dance around the other instruments to fill in the rest of the noise. You really get a sense that the world isn’t a happy place and that things are just barely scraping by, just from the music and a short voice sample.
Next is East Hastings, a piece that continues on this theme of sparse desolation that the first piece introduced. Here we have some bag pipers playing a familiar melody (from the first piece) and some shouting in the back. The music comes to a crescendo near the end part of the piece and then fizzles out into quiet noise and finally to silence to end the piece. One thing I’ve noticed that sets this album aside from their later work is that this one is much more empty, making each note really count towards something rather than just make noise for the hell of it. As time went on I see how their sound has progressed and each album contains a clear cut theme which the music fully supports. The group does a great job of “cooking” their music long enough to really make every piece perfect in its own way.
The final piece, Providence, clocks in at 30 minutes, so here is the first part, if you are interested the rest is online to hear too! I would think that this last piece would be the most prolific of the three, but I was mistaken. Not to say it isn’t good because it is great. I would have to say it is the quietest of the three – a fitting end to an album based around civilization going to naught and the coldness it brings with it. It was hard to tell at times if the group was still playing because things got so quiet and soft. That being said, it certainly leaves the listener thinking, “Well, now what?” That thought is worth the build up and let down of these three pieces, beautifully crafted by Godspeed.
This is a genre of music that I had spent some time with in my high school years (about 7 years ago) and have only slightly kept up with it since then. It really is a great area to delve into because there are so many different groups out there, most of which are unsigned and creating some interesting music. Some add choir elements, others gospel, and others bring things close to traditional rock music too. I think being able to appreciate a sound like post-rock allows you to really enjoy most of the history of rock music as a whole, because without it, it would not exist! The members of Godspeed clearly have spent a lot of time listening to old album and used that influence into their own highly original works. They have since broken up after releasing a few more albums, but last year regrouped to play live and possibly record more music. I would certainly be interested in hearing their next musical endeavor, it is certain to make a mark in the post-rock “world.” What are your thoughts on Godspeed? Is post-rock a dying trend or is it due for a comeback? Friday will bring an album from 1998, Music Has the Right to Children by Boards of Canada, thanks for reading!
Slowly but surely making progress on my Dead Flag Blues project for 2D2. The bottom picture includes the original sketches. Still quite a bit more to do, and I hope I can finish by the end of spring break.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, F# A# ∞ (1997), 1 LP.
I love this package because of all the little knick-knacks that it comes with: athank you and concept explanation insert, a hand-bill from an old show, “Faulty Schematics of a Ruined Machine [to scale],” the train screen print and a Canadian penny flattened by a train.