Posted by & filed under Music, Reviews.

Efrim Manuel Menuck

EMM Cover

Pissing Stars

2nd February 2018 – Constellation Records

01. Black Flags Ov Thee Holy Sonne
02. The State And Its Love Of Genocide
03. The Lion-Daggers Of Calais
04. Kills v Lies
05. Hart_Khashoggi
06. A Lamb In The Land Of Payday Loans
07. LxOxVx_Shelter In Place
08. The Beauty Of Children And The War Against The Poor
09. Pissing Stars

Efrim Manuel Menuck is most well known as one of the founding members of the legendary Montreal post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. So with that in mind it’s almost a given that any associated project of his will end up with a somewhat colourful title. Although this is no All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling, this second solo record of his – simply titled Pissing Stars - certainly lives up to the enigmatic and often humorous expectation in the name department.

Beyond colourful and often eccentric album and song titles, there is a wealth of colourful music to explore when looking at Menuck’s wide-ranging discography. This includes two bands, as well as a single solo album prior to this which was released all the way back in 2011. A large proportion of Menuck’s music is rooted in experimental rock and post-rock, often aiming to create vast soundscapes that unfurl at glacial paces, but with an extraordinary attention to detail in every layer of instrumentation. With this being such an overarching quality in his music it begs the questions ‘what can he achieve in his solo project that he can’t in either of his two bands?’ and ‘why now, after seven years, is he deciding to release another solo record seemingly out of the blue?’ While Pissing Stars does bear some resemblance to the music of Godspeed and A Silver Mt. Zion, it is an album that has certainly come at a great time while Godspeed have been experiencing a slight lull in the quality of their albums. Pissing Stars fortunately proves to be an excellent addition to Menuck’s ever-expanding catalogue in its own right.

Straight off the bat, it is important to note the impressive and engaging cinematic quality of the music on this album. For fans of Godspeed’s earlier work such as Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and Yanqui U.X.O. this will hardly come as a surprise, but considering the comparatively undeveloped and flat sound of Luciferian Towers, the latest Godspeed release from last year, it is reassuring to see that Menuck still has a steady grasp of this musical style. The album truly flows like the soundtrack to a non-existent movie, opening with an incredibly haunting and melancholic set of tracks “Black Flage Ov Thee Holy Sonne” and “The State And Its Love Of Genocide”, leading to an evolution of tentative hopefulness which is carried through to the album’s closing title track. The music paints the emotional arc of a world finding itself in disarray after an apocalypse, fighting through the grief and confusion, but later finding itself capable of rebuilding and somehow starting to learn from the mistakes of a bygone age.

This musical arc, its rawness and ability to convey emotion so effortlessly, really lends itself to the themes Menuck brings to his lyrics, including war, greed, politics, the strain humanity is placing on the environment, and trust. It is fair to say then that this album comes at a very appropriate time, both in terms of Menuck’s wider musical career, but more importantly in terms of producing an album that speaks so closely of the atrocities and injustices that surround us in the twenty-first century, and being able to provide the perfect musical accompaniment in this endeavour. Menuck’s delicate high pitched vocal delivery will certainly be an acquired taste for some, especially for fans who are only familiar with the instrumental music of Godspeed, but it is worth that adjustment period in order to give this record the multiple listens it deserves.

Sonically, this record is as rich in texture as any of Menuck’s most critically acclaimed releases, and what it lacks in definitive percussion it makes up for in atmosphere. The warbling tape loop recordings of strings throughout the album create an air of deep aching sadness. Their brittle recording reinforces the minor melodic motifs they are playing and they certainly hearken back to Godspeed’s Yanqui U.X.O. album. On top of this, the deep hummed vocals in the opening track add another warm layer to the sound as well as furthering the sorrow that permeates the first half of the record, making this song sound like an elegy or funeral march.

The tracks that take on a more hopeful tone such as “Hart_Khashoggi” and “LxOxVx_Shelter In Place” end up feeling quite similar in tone to the latest Godspeed album Luciferian Towers due to the heavy fuzzy distortion on the guitars. This is not a negative though, as these songs are successful in evolving a linear structure in an incredibly exciting way, taking great care in building the layers of guitars, strings and static slowly and effectively.

As it is made very clear above, it is difficult to compare this record – or any of Menuck’s projects for that matter – without using Godspeed as a frame of reference. It is obvious that the stylings of albums like Lift Your Skinny Fists have had a significant impact on his later career, not least because of that album’s cult status and the lofty expectations it has created. Despite all the odds though, Pissing Stars is an album that makes musical nods while managing to inhabit its own musical space. Although weighty with its lyrical themes and its tone, this is a record that many listeners will find refreshing and will be able to resonate with. Perhaps the fact of being more excited for an Efrim Manuel Menuck solo project than a Godspeed You! Black Emperor project somehow crudely underlines the dire straits that we are in in 2018. Perhaps it should instil us with hope though. Although it is hard to predict what form it will manifest itself in next, Menuck has shown beyond all doubt that there is still fire in his belly and music in his soul, and we should continue to have high hopes for whatever music there is to follow.

Comments

comments