F♯ A♯ ∞ LP (Three different front cover: Train, Water tower, Highway Lights)
by godspeed you black emperor!
F# A# ∞ was recorded at the original Hotel2Tango in spring 1997 on a rented 16-track tape deck and supplemented with various field recordings. In the preceding year, the band had taken shape as a quasi-orchestral outfit involving most of the players that would go on to make three more records and tour the world many times. This is the first recorded document of Godspeed as a large band and is soaring, fragile, awkward, heartbreaking stuff. Constellation released a vinyl-only pressing of 500 copies in August 1997, with LP jackets hand made by the label, the band, and various local artisans. It has since gone through dozens of re-presses, with virtually all of the original packaging elements preserved. The opening monologue on Side One (“Dead Flag Blues”) is taken from Incomplete Movie About Jail, an unfinished film by Efrim.
Release date: 14 August 1997
Running time: 34:00
LP jacket made from 80lb. burgundy textured uncoated cardstock with blind embossed front cover text. Three different front cover images (train, water tower, highway lights) are hand-glued on the front cover (original first run of 500 featured black and white darkroom prints; subsequent editions are offset printed). Back covers are individually hand-drawn with illuminated cross icon and catalogue number and are hand-stamped with Constellation logo; all in silver ink. Inserts include a penny crushed on Montreal railroad tracks, blueprint album graphic and notes, credit sheet and reproduction of an early GY!BE show handbill - all placed inside a plain manila envelope (original first run of 500 featured acetone transfers hand-printed on each envelope). Additional 8"x8" insert card of train locomotive image silkscreened in various colours on various recycled papers over the years.
1. SIDE A: nervous, sad, poor
2. SIDE B: bleak, uncertain, beautiful
Aidan (drums), Bruce (drums), Christophe (violin), David (guitar), Efrim (guitar), Mauro (bass), Moya (guitar, banjo), Norsola (cello), Thea (french horn), Thierry (bass).
Recorded and mixed on 16-track reel-to-reel at thee mighty Hotel2Tango in Montreal by the band along with Don and Ian, May 1997.
…hungover it’s awful, the sound of trains collapsing back behind of here…outside there are distant birds circling in front of 7 miles of heavy cloud falling down, and from where you’re lying one of those clouds looks like a hanged man leading a blind, indifferent horse…
THIS IS MILE END MY FRIEND, the hollowed out ruins here and a train runs straight through them… We made a record here in mile End; at the mighty HOTEL2TANGO. where the lonesome trains ramble thru the backyard while the wind plays in the trees where nervous birds hide from a kat named Lu, a dog named Wanda… 16 rented tracks moving XX 7.5 inches per second onto ampx456 WITHOUT ANY KEYBOARDS, while don & Ian rode the faders tired-eyed and stoic… The whole thing xxxxxxx recorded under threat of great threat on a 1933 stahltonbahnd maschine and mixed in one awful night by black helicopter… IT ALL HAPPENED IN MAY; winter was just starting to fade then and the money hadn’t run out yet… We’ve been plowing our little field up here for a couple of years now, but the yard is still filled with rocks and dust and sick trees… SO we bide our time, waiting for a purer kick to bloom… & the future is still bleak, uncertain and beautiful… And the van is gassed but the pistons are cracked, and when we close our eyes alls we can see is: open road, telephone poles, a sun that is always setting &a tangled up melody falling down slowly O.K. GOODBYE xoxoxoxoLOVE GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR! mILE eND MONTREALQUEBECCANADA
The car’s 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
This album is the closest musical equivalent of a thriller movie that I have ever heard. Like a blunt object, once beaten over the head repeatedly with action causes film to lose its effect, its excitement. Where both this album and the thriller genre succeed is in subduing outrageous, realizing that a quick jab of the knife will create much more of an impression than constant explosions. Especially when these stabbings of excitement emerge at times unknown to the audience. The element of surprise is even furthered in this album with it’s creation of a false calm. This album has a lulling ability to calm one’s pace to a sluggish march. And yet I noticed my step quickening as the middle of “East Hastings” picked up tempo. It caught me so off guard and filled me with a daze of paranoia causing me to run in the vain attempt to keep up with it’s explosive velocity. Of course this rush of activity bursts into another hush, giving the time to account one’s bruises in a way an action film couldn’t. With these bleak, desolate calms matched with the occasional horrific storm, this album reminded me of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. It truly accomplishes its goal of illustrating an apocalypse of American culture. One aspect of this album which really interested me was that with all of its ebb and flow, it’s difficult to differentiate between what is apocalypse and what is post-apocalyptic. It made me think of how our American culture and its ideals can fade away, and yet we leave the husk of it around because we are unsure if it is fully dead or not. It is always unknown if the Western-influenced instrumentation and melodies are to return. This is an extremely powerful album which is great for walking in an unpopulated night. It is a rare example of an album which is as enjoyable to hear as it is to analyze.
GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR - F# A# Infinity (Vinyl Version) ALBUM REVIEW
“Nervous, Sad, Poor…”
What seems to be a bass loop of general low frequency noise sets the dark tone
This is one of my favorite poems / soliloquies of all time
It Went Like This:
The arranged strings provide a continued melancholy. As it finishes, it transitions into the distant and reverb soaked guitar, which sounds like a distant but approaching train. These move into the pretty and continuous melancholy melody as in the strings but on guitar with droning strings and mallet percussed toms in the background.
The End of the poem
The train sample solidifies the setting and theme of the album as a passing train.
Then the guitar comes in with some sort of slide
everything is melting
the steel tracks and the trains on them and for a moment in pause we hear a return of the main melody (Melancholy). It actually becomes frightenly melted and descending until they reach their dynamic peak.
The bass comes in to show the new melody, where they incorporate the melting guitars into a more standard musical section
The guitar solo
Steel, it seems
country, languid, and beautiful
after a while the piano and drones come in.
The second guitar leads
It is beautiful
like a rush of wind rising to dephining volumes. Painful to hear, beautiful in retrospect.
The beautiful jaunty finish reminds me of the theme to the third man.
Joyful and joyless. Country, and Jam, but with melancholy.
This seems like one day, during recording, one of the members were screwing around. And another member heard the melodic beauty and had the mind to press record. He then overdubbed with a delay/reverb soaked banjo on top of it.
“What’s my motivation?”
“Bleak, Uncertain, Beautiful…”
The ravings of a street man, the trains, the cars, and bagpipes set the mood for this coming apocalypse.
The guitar drones in, screwdriver in hand. The ominous bagpipes pull out of the mix. Then the instantly recognizable melody comes in
認めるんだ。君が初めてこのアルバムを聴いた時、語りが”赤ん坊を抱いた母親たち／mothers clutching babies”のくだりに至り、そこで、バックに、傷つけられ、孤独と貧困の中に置かれた人々の叫びのように鳴り響くヴァイオリンを聴いた時、君は鳥肌が立つのを抑えられなかっただろう。『F# A# Infinity』は、ある時代の終わりと、人々を支配する市場の力への、軋みをあげる荘厳な捧げ物であり、漠然と記述され、想像力をかき集めてつくられた音楽の持つ力そのものだ。リヴァーブの重みとスチールの弦の電磁的振動が産み出す音が使われているのに、Godspeed You Black Emperor!の1stアルバムは、あたかも昔から存在している音楽のようであり、それはまるで、過去数世紀にわたって存在しながらも、今、ここで語られる思想のようなのだ。実際の生活の中の、遠くで聴こえる機関車の音だとか、辻説法師のわめき声、ラジオのノイズといったサンプルが、ヴァイオリン、チェロ、異質なギターの音からなる全体を覆うテクスチャーに、不安定なレイヤーを重ねており、直接的なメッセージはどこにも見当たらないのに、どういうわけか明確な政治性を持っているように感じられる。もしも、『F# A# Infinity』に何らかのメッセージがあるとすれば、こうだ。”世界の終わりは、きっと美しい”
“So says the preacher man but… I don’t go by what he says”
The end of the world looms heavily over F# A# ∞, but it isn’t clear what this apocalypse entails until this short dialogue with the infamous Blaise Bailey Finnegan III in “Providence”. We get a taste of how it might go down in the iconic poem that kicks the album off in “The Dead Flag Blues”, but its nature isn’t fleshed out. The “Providence” quote provides a hint; that our declarations of apocalypse come from a religious leader, the sort of figure historically connected with reaction and oppression speaks to the dubiousness of our little apocalypse. Such figures historically disguise reactionary opposition behind images of religious catastrophe. That Blaise Bailey Finnegan doesn’t buy it points to its doubtfulness; however flawed his politics are on Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada, he positions himself as a man of the people. Rather than a harrowing, fatalistic extinction, then, it’s all the more likely that the poem in “The Dead Flag Blues” points to the end of an epoch. It’s the end of the world, not absolutely, but only as we know it.
F# A# ∞ is Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s darkest album by a considerable margin, but it isn’t a pessimistic. Revolution is nasty business borne out of deprivation, oppression, and dehumanization; it is always met with violent repression on the part of the elite. Such terror is laid out in that introduction: burned out cars, mothers picking through rubble of bombed out buildings, burning skylines, a leering propaganda machine designed to break down resistance. Our sole comfort is that “the [horrible] machine is bleeding to death”. Of course, our machine will sputter on in its death throes; it’s up to us to organize, to storm the Bastille, to build up the barricade, or what have you.
The undeniable highpoint on F# A# ∞ comes during “East Hastings”. Godspeed You! Black Emperor always had a knack for cinematic, and “The Sad Mafioso” (the ten minute movement within “East Hastings”) is the band’s crowning achievement. It begins as a sorrowful hodgepodge of strings and melodic guitars, which lament the subjugation and hopelessness which goes hand in hand with oppression. A slow building piece which progressively louder and more distinct, or more tragic, you still never get the sense that it will flare up. And then a few minutes in it stops completely as if the life has been choked out of it; the machine might be bleeding to death, but its fumes are still poisonous to those who labour under it. If you listen carefully you’ll hear soft, mournful singing, one of the few moments where vocals are incorporated into a Godspeed song. From here, the song changes dramatically. In finding their voice, the people have found their strength; what was meek and hopeless suddenly becomes aggressive, working itself into a fever pitch. It’s an absolutely stunning piece which evokes the sort of history changing moment which brings about the end of that horrible epoch we talked about earlier. It’s one of my favourite moments in music, not just for its emotionally powerful imagery, but also because Godspeed You! Black Emperor has that striking ability to make you feel like you’re part of that spontaneous uprising which sets everything in motion (as opposed to the more detached, third person imagery in ‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’).
Of course, a cynic could just as easily read “East Hastings” from the opposite perspective: total annihilation, as in the repression of the Paris Commune or the German Peasant’s War. But that doesn’t jibe with Godspeed’s ideology. F# A# ∞ might be sombre and downcast, but it isn’t a nihilistic album. Hope has always been the unifying aspect of their music and F# A# ∞ is no different in this regard. It’s victory that allows Blaise Bailey Finnegan to deny the preacher man in “Providence”, and it’s no coincidence that we’re blessed with a most soothing, regenerative hymn right after he does.