Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 1998 - f#a#infinity

From this website:

"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 upward, everything washing 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."

So begins the monologue of "the dead flag blues". What follows this spoken word, is some of the most interesting and breathtaking music of the twentieth century.

!'s first album "f#a#infinity" defies convention and creates post-rock soundscapes that blend otherworldly noises and exquisite musicianship. This nine-piece collective brings drummers, pianists, violinists and guitarists to form layered compositions that are more "real" than any music I have ever heard. By "real", I mean intimacy in the most surreal sense. The sounds created from this album take over your immediate existence and they thrust you into the subdued chaos of their fantasy. Within each smaller movement among the larger pieces (no track is less than 16 minutes), it captures a perfect emotional tone and delivers it into beautiful climaxes like no other band in memory.

The album is set into three tracks, "the dead flag blues" (16:28), "East Hastings" (17:58), and "Providence" (29:02). While the album itself must be taken in full to be totally appreciated, each composition seems to represent a different period of time surrounding an apocalypse. Where "the dead flag blues" seems to represent the shock and despair of the world ending, its fifth movement offers a strange joy that seems like someone realizing their fortunes of surviving an apocalypse. This up and down characteristic is what makes these songs so moving. It's not as if they suddenly jump into different speeds and sounds, but everything is appropriate and gradual.

From here, we move into "East Hastings", which can best be described as s*** hitting the fan. As if the reality of a deluge has set in, and the music that illustrates the fantasy builds into a momentous lash of guitar and emotion. At roughly seven minutes into this piece, we encounter what is arguably the most intense moment of the entire album. At this point, chaos and confusion set in as we are greeted by an outburst of percussion and more otherworldly noises than on any other part of the album. Still, even in chaos, the sounds are perfectly put together, and the emotion is conveyed in devastating fashion.

The final track, "Providence", is by far the longest, and in turn, the least consistent. While the first two have a complete feeling, this composition feels slightly full. However, this "full" feeling is only caused by the fact that it is so long. Each of the individual movements are just as important as the proceedings, but there are simply too many in this one track (it would've made sense to turn it into two). Instead of highlighting the entirety of the track I will state that movements three, four, five and the finale are incredible however, and create a wonderful climax for the album.

In this review, I've refrained from going into too much detail because the album is best listened to in the height of curiosity. If you do give it a listen, I suggest taking in the entirety of the album by yourself so that you can appreciate what it illustrates. This album is a socially conscious masterpiece (something I urge you to look into), that creates sounds and sights for the mind that no other band could hope to conjure. Hell, calling this collective a band seems inappropriate as they are more or less the symphony of the apocalypse. This is one of the few albums that should and hopefully will be remembered centuries from now; it is simply that poignant, simply that unique, and seriously, that beautiful."

1. The Dead Flag Blues
2. East Hastings
3. Providence