Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation/ October 15 2012)
By Daniel Oliver
With obscurity, depth and a patent for a political rhetoric on previous releases, Godspeed You! Black Emperor are back with their first release in ten years. Having disappeared from the public eye following their magnificent effort Yanqui U.X.O. in 2002, they have released their latest effort entitled Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
The group went on an indefinite hiatus, during which other projects came to further fruition- Silver Mt. Zion and a solo album from Efrim Manuel Menuck, among many others. However, the group began touring once again in 2010 and their latest effort is a culmination of this period in time.
Previously known as ‘Albanian’ by fans, the re-worked opening track ‘Mladic’ explores what seems like an almost entirely new territory for the group. Although it retains the mandatory post-rock essentials, this track has beautiful elements of middle-eastern instrumentation that seems to have been an addition following Menuck’s personal odyssey on his solo outing Plays “High Gospel”, which has a strong religious theme throughout. The track ebbs and flows naturally with a devout purpose, narrating what sounds like a religious ceremony that sweeps into an almost euphoric crescendo, ending with what sounds like an iPhone recording of a street dance in a small, secluded township in some obscure location.
The two drone tracks on the record ‘Their Helicopters Sing’ and ‘Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable’ are murky, distorted numbers that sound like the swan song of a structure that is about to return to it’s foundations. The former sounds like it could be part of David Lynch’s Eraserhead soundtrack, with twisting, humming machine like intonations almost like that of a heartbeat thudding away gently within a womb. The latter is almost a Stars Of The Lid track, but has more of an abrasive, distorted and somewhat aggressive feel to it, the sound resembling a whiteout snowstorm, cold and ethereal.
‘We Drift Like Worried Fire’ is more in tune with the GY!BE format we’ve come to know and love. It has gently plucked guitar lines that build up naturally with dedicated craftsmanship and care. It crashes once again into a euphoric burst of pounding percussion and heavily strummed, almost punk-like guitar chords. The track reaches its peak at 12 minutes, where the atmosphere changes and once again a new playfulness within the group can be heard.
Raw, live, powerful and without ever the need for words, GY!BE have an immaculate capability of producing deeply personal, emotive music which conjures up imagery in waves of bleak landscapes and religious evangelism. In an age where a huge proportion of music is defined by a clinical and anesthetized production, GY!BE are a breath of fresh air, with a straight-to-tape mentality.
The records powerful rhythms, melodies, string sections and nostalgia requires very little explanation for people to understand what it is the group are trying to say or what they are here to achieve. It’s abundantly clear that ten years on from their last release they are still relevant and as important as ever.