Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
31st March 2015 – Constellation Records
01. Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’
02. Lamb’s Breath
03. Asunder, Sweet
04. Piss Crowns Are Trebled
You’re either pretentious enough to love the blustering majesty of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or your tastes are meant for more traditional things. They are, I imagine, not easy to love; whilst not mired in dense walls of white noise or strung-out abstract noise recordings like some of their more avante-garde peers, the music of the Canadian collective is, at best, unconventional. Whilst the term ‘post-rock’ is vague enough that they can easily be included under its banner – they do use rock instruments after all – their mode and methods are more experimental and abrasive.
Their music is built on emotion; on feeling and otherworldly intrigue. Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is angelic. It’s almost religious. It makes you want to shut yourself in a pitch black room, devoid of any other sensory input, and think about what kind of person you are. About the feelings you feel. About the state of the world, and how glorious it is, but also what a shit heap it can be. Even the terminology of the track titles reflects this; light, lambs and sweetness contrast with ‘piss crowns’, peasantry and sundering, all wrapped in something biblical and rotten. It feels highly allegorical, even if we don’t know their exact meaning.
Notably absent on this record is any kind of vocal recording. GY!BE don’t sing, but in the past they have included excerpts of conversations, monologues, sermons, speechs and ramblings to add further texture to their epic compositions. As with 2012′s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! however, this piece relies solely on the instrumentation, and it’s in keeping with a focused approach.
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is technically just the one song, but as you would hope with over forty minutes of music, there are tangible movements and signatures to each of the four tracks into which it’s divided. GY!BE’s work is marked for each record evoking one or two particular emotions each, in a variety of ways. “Peasantry Or ‘Light! Inside Of Light!’” is the Lift Your Skinny Fists… of the quartet; upbeat and uplifting in equal measure. Almost-title track “Asunder, Sweet” is six minutes of discomfort, and feels like the Godspeed of old – a real effort in disquiet, a la F♯ A♯ ∞. The haunting thrum of something unknown in the background is punctuated by the echoing heartbeat of plucked string. It goes nowhere in particular, and barely ever raises its head, but it’s not there to grab attention; it’s there to serve a purpose; to make you shift in your seat, and furrow your brow a little.
The album’s narrow approach is experimental for them, but perhaps robs it of a certain sense of grandeur. It’s tight and focussed like never before, but a little bit of what makes the the blessed Black Emperors so special is that disregard for convention. Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is still atypical of the genre, but not of themselves, and whether or not this is a good thing depends on what you want from them. For me, it’s that touch of madness, and ASaOD‘s cup runneth only half full.
Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic record, replete with intrigue and many of the band’s eclectic hallmarks – but it’s not their new opus.