It’s always been difficult for me to describe the listening experience involved with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Talking about their records as merely collections of songs doesn’t work. Each album is more like a visceral experience. A complex stream of emotions and feelings that come over you. Joy, menace, confusion, resilience, contentment, and chaos are just a few of the words that come to mind when I drop the needle on a GY!BE record. There’s a mysterious quality to the band as well. They’ve never seemed like a band, more than a community of musical nomads that come together to create chaotic beauty every couple of years. I know that the band is very much a collection of normal guys and gals with family, kids, homes, cars, and bills to pay, just like you and me. But in the musical bubble known as Godspeed You! Black Emperor they seem like one collective beast making noise which emanates from some earthy, existential place of knowledge and truth. I could be reading too much into a rock and roll band, but that’s what I do.
20 years ago GY! BE released their first album, F♯ A♯ ∞, and now we have their sixth LP titled Luciferian Towers. As far as Godspeed you albums go, this one feels about as upbeat as they get. There’s still the chaos and fury that comes with the territory, but there’s a decidedly upward swing here.
Like I said, I’m not much for digging into individual tracks on a Godspeed album. I like talking more about the visceral experience involved in their albums. Where they put me, the journey, what comes up in my head as I hear the album roll along. I think that’s where the real experience lies in a Godspeed You! Black Emperor record. I will mention a couple songs, though. Why? Because it feels right.
“Undoing A Luciferian Tower”, the opening track, is a swirl of musical chaos and folk-infused doom. This is the kind of piece the band has made a name on for over 20 years. How they meld these noises into something uplifting and prolific is a wonderful thing to behold. The 3-part “Bosses Hang” is more of that noisy and chaotic uplift. It feels like a storm of strings, feedback, hurdy gurdies, and exploding toms. Even the exquisite “Fam/Famine”, under the droning feedback and tribal build up has this air of triumphant starry-eyedness. Like we’ve hit the apocalypse and everything is smoldering rubble, but dammit we’re gonna be okay. We’ve got each other. “Anthem For No State” is also broken up into 3-parts. It’s an epic musical journy, filled with all the beauty, bombast, and sonic explosions that GY! BE have perfected. There’s almost a spaghetti western vibe when “Pt. III” hits.
Since their return in 2012 from a 10 year musical hiatus Godspeed You! Black Emperor have put me in mind of a commune-sized Neutral Milk Hotel. There’s this spirit of earthy, folk-sy abandon mixed with hardcore and punk tendencies. There’s also a dystopian, post-apocalyptic feel in these masterful pieces of music that comes thru. It’s like if the Weather Underground had been a radical music collective, I imagine they’d sound like Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Luciferian Towers would be their mission statement.