Release Date: 2nd April 2021
Record Label: Constellation Records
For Fans Of: Mono, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky
Lift your skinny fists and praise ‘Allelujah! There is a new record from the post-rock titans Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Coming almost four years since their last full length, it wouldn’t be surprising if fans began to wonder whether the band had overslept during their hibernation period. Luckily, such concerns would be needless, as the Canadian ten-piece have been beavering away, crafting another entry into their consistently esteemed body of work.
G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is the seventh record by the enigmatic ensemble, and with four tracks adding up to almost an hour, the compositions are of a typically long nature. As with the band’s previous lengthy numbers, the pieces are broken up into movements; sections end with a comma rather than a full stop, suggesting that the narrative of the song isn’t finished when one passage ends. As such, the music on this record, as on their previous releases, has more in common with classical composition or film scores. Rather than obeying the standard pop format, or even employing distinct sections that repeat, the tracks morph and evolve, developing a power not through sheer volume or building in dynamics, but with layerings of extra guitars, violins and two percussionists (gotta find a use for ten members).
The 20 minute album opener (look up the title, it’s longer than a Panic! At The Disco song name) introduces a honking, foghorn-esque melody, feedbacking and distorted, with the accompanying instruments slowly creeping in to round out the ensemble. As the track progresses and becomes more driving, the band avoid the pitfalls that face many post-rock acts, namely resorting to needless crescendo building or noodling aimlessly. Godspeed You! Black Emperor concoct distinct motifs and passages that establish themselves without overstaying their welcome. While the run time of the tracks may seem daunting, the compositions contain such a variety of harmonic content that apprehensive listeners will be sure to find a movement they will enjoy.
The equally lengthy titled third track establishes itself as the more understated of the two pieces, with very sparse percussion barely peeking through the mix and the melodic instruments taking on a more atmospheric approach. This soon changes as one movement ends and the next begins, with the introduction of determined rock drum beats and uplifting, majestic melodies. The jubilation of all the instruments uniting to create this hopeful ray of light (in what is often a bleak genre) is fully realised at the song’s climax, when the instruments give way to the ringing of church bells. After such a spectrum of emotions and moods has been experienced throughout the record, from mournful to heartening, epic to solemn, the listener will undergo a wave of catharsis, having navigated their way through these emotionally complex arrangements.
Despite the ever impressive cinematic pieces the band creates, the two shorter tracks of the record (tracks 2 and 4 in the running order) fail to add much to the album, and serve little more purpose than segue tracks or palate cleansers. Lasting six minutes each and mostly devoid of percussion or any sort of compositional development, the tracks pale in comparison to the behemoth-sized tracks that surround them. Despite the emotive nature of of the pieces (it’s hard to find a GY!BE composition that conjures no emotional response), particularly the beautiful, heart-breaking tones of the violin, the tracks fail to develop, and with a relatively short running time compared to the band’s usual track length, they fail to win our investment. Arguably these songs are not the focus of the record, much in the same way that skits aren’t the focus of hip-hop records, but if they don’t pass muster, should they still be included in the final product?
As is the case with all Godspeed You! Black Emperor records, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! is not easy listening. It’s not to be put on in the background, or in the car. It’s not to be put on a Spotify playlist, or to be paused and revisited later. This music demands your full attention in one sitting, no distractions and maybe even no lights on to really complete the mood. If you’ve never experienced a GY!BE album before, this may not be the best place to start. But for those who are already initiated, praise be to heaven! The heavyweights are back.
Recommended Track: “Government Came” (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz) / Cliffs Gaze / cliffs’ gaze at empty waters’ rise / Ashes to Sea or Nearer to Thee