Album review: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
Canadian collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor have been pulling at the threads of late capitalism since their 1997 debut F#A#∞. Bereft of vocals beyond the occasional spoken word passage, their widescreen, cinematic instrumentals conjure a world on the very brink of apocalypse. The last twelve months have felt very Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
As does this record. Much of its 52 minutes is dominated by two longform pieces, each starting with recordings of shortwave radio transmissions – maybe the only form of communication that will be left after the societal collapse this lot perpetually anticipate. From there, the band progress through astonishing multi-part chronicles that take in defiant electric blues, shimmering drone, crunchy distortion and soaring post-rock crescendos.
The latter genre was defined for a generation by F#A#∞ and the rest of Godspeed’s turn-of-the-century output, but these Québécois operate beyond its oft-predictable parameters. From their tendency towards cryptic messaging to the attention their questing, epic sonics demand, engaging with this album requires active input from the listener, proving all the more rewarding as a result.
For all the existential dread contained therein, G_d’s Pee… also includes moments of elegiac beauty, as on shorter tracks Fire At Static Valley and the exquisite OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H.). Sections of the longer pieces, particularly the clarion call of ASHES TO SEA or NEARER TO THEE, feel like clouds parting, locating hope in the sun rising on the morning after all the statues fall.
Resisting social media and releasing just two grainy press shots in a quarter of a century, Godspeed remain wary of the mainstream. But as the world spins inexorably towards tipping point, they’ve never sounded as central to their times.
For Fans Of: Swans, Mono, Neurosis
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is released on April 2 via Constellation.
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