Music that evokes the end of the world

What you need to know:

“We have done our best to express ourselves clearly, honestly and politely, we have never preached or insisted that everyone should believe the same as us” – Efrim Menuck / Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Good luck! Black Emperor is a band that has been engaged in the musicalization of the end of the world since the end of the 20th century or, more precisely, has dedicated itself to drawing the postcards of the apocalypse with notes and sound essays. Not predictions, but capturing the spirit of our time. The end of the world is Now.

Guitars, drums, bass. The usual sounds of a rock band can be heard on the albums of this group, originally from Montreal, Canada. But there is more: strings, wind instruments, chamber music resonances, absence of the voice. The usual with bands that can be assigned to post-rock. But there is more: games with saturations and Return messageAmbient noise, sound cuts that make the listener imagine the bleakest scenarios in the world. Resources may not be anything new – neither in their time nor years ago – but thank God! Black Emperor (GY!Be) used it like no one else.

Good luck, you black emperor

GY!Be’s lineup is numerous and changes imperceptibly, as does the content of their albums. Perhaps the only immobile (and most recognizable) figure is guitarist Efrim Menuck, but that doesn’t mean he can be considered a leader. This tape does not meet standards. This band isn’t a band, and when it looked anything like one (at least one like several others), it took a 10-year hiatus.

First move / “The car is on fire and there is no driver behind the wheel…”

Records show that Godspeed You! Black Emperor was created in the early 90s. A few years ago everything was a mystery, especially a cassette recording with the title All the lights are fucked on the hairy amp that is drooling (1993), of which only 33 examples were made. For a long time, the supposed 27 songs from the band’s debut album (more like demo) were circulating on the Internet, but with more than three versions (and even more) and no confirmation of authenticity from anyone in the group, it was always preferable to consign everything to an unfulfilled legend leave.

It wasn’t until 2022 that the album was officially uploaded to Bandcamp, something so historic that fans can hardly believe it. Chaotic, hard to listen to All the lights fucked… You can think of it as a collage of sounds that GY!Be would later use to create fantastic future albums.

For those who didn’t know about this recording at the time: The Life of Godspeed You! Black Emperor begins in 1998, the year of Moon safari the air, the Massive mezzanine attack, the This is hardcore from pulp and that Desert songs by Mercury Rev. A brilliant moment for music, and amid the wave of great albums from great bands, Efrim Menuck, Mike Moya, Norsola Johnson and about seven other musicians presented the world with a dark sensation F#A#∞.

On GY!Be’s first album you can hear the sound that associates them with the most famous post-rock bands (Mogwai, Mono, Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Rós, etc.). However, There’s something about the Canadians’ music that makes them unique, a distinct style that strangely places them in each category and distances them. The sentence with which he opens the book is paradigmatic. Q#A#∞: “The car is on fire and there is no driver behind the wheel”. This means that when you listen to an album by this band, you enter a vehicle loaded with all the elements that music and acoustic experiments offer, to let yourself drift and explore the most diverse soundscapes.

It would be an exaggeration to say that every Godspeed You! Black Emperor has a renewed sound. What happens is that it offers a different journey. In his second episode, an EP called Slow Revolt for New Zero Canada (1999) is like waking up from the dark dream in which its predecessor ends. F#A#∞, to present a brighter and more political side (another aspect that defines the band) in just two songs (which last more than almost thirty minutes in total).

“The American government is a systematic government that no one can trust. I do not trust”, says a voice attributed to Blaze Bayley himself, former Iron Maiden singer, in “BBF3.” In fact, the composition – in which we hear one of the band’s most post-rock moments – revolves around a multi-verse poem taken from the British heavy metal band’s song “Virus.”

Second sentence / “The playground of the world…”

Just a year later Slow Revolt for New Zero CanadaGY!Be have released their most beautiful and celebrated album: The Incredible Raise your thin fists like antennas to the skya double album in which the Canadians’ indefinable style is more fully expressed: long-lasting, multi-movement compositions that rise and fall and change the listener’s perspective in exciting ways, offering glimpses of happiness and celebration and then collapsing into the cruelest visualization of reality .

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There are several unforgettable moments Raise your thin fists like antennas to the skyBut Of all, the third part stands out, with which the second CD begins: “Sleep”, a composition that gives you goosebumps and in which Coney Island is perceived as a reflection of the world: a place that was once wonderful and is now reduced to nothing. “It was the playground of the world (..) here we slept on the beach and spent the night. No longer. Things have changed, you see. They don’t sleep on the beach anymore…” says Murray Ostril, a hiker, whose voice gave way to melancholy guitars, soon accompanied by pulsating drums and then a gradual intensity of sounds that evoke the lament of humanity. Simply devastating.

After something so insurmountable: thank God! Black Emperor was opening up to other possibilities and key members were about to leave the ship to pursue other projects. But before that (which would mean a long break of almost 10 years) they started Yankee UXO (2002), an album in which percussions – more than usual – play a fundamental role and make everything sound like war. For example, the last track on the album, “Rocket Falls on Rocket Falls”, a kind of war tour that ends in a wonderful cascade of sound.

Third sentence / “OUR SIDE MUST WIN”

When they were at their most popular and well-known, GY!Be disappeared and remained a representative figure of post-rock and anarchy in the music industry (there is even an anecdote that FBI agents mistook them for members of a terrorist group). But only that: anecdotes that served to envelop the myth of a great band whose return seemed far away and actually not wanted at all. I mean, it wasn’t Oasis.

By 2012, the world had changed and it needed to be scored by more than just Tame Impala or Lana Del Rey. Maybe this is the reason (but probably not): Good luck! Black Emperor broke his absence. He came back in a way that was as unexpected as it was sensational Alleluia! Do not bend! Rising up!an album that contains nothing more than music, is a pamphlet and is characterized by a sound that in a way breaks with the encapsulation of imaginary scenarios created in recording studios: it can be heard outside, it is a free and expanded sound . Strange that you hear it like that when the world begins to live in self-centeredness “thanks” to the digital avalanche (more).

That spirit remained Apart, sweet and other distress (2015), where the opener: “Peasantry or ‘Light!’” Inside of Light!” sounds like a crowd of people flocking to the most remote part of civilization, without this necessarily being positive (Listen to it while reading “Cajas” by José Saramago, why not?). The return appears to be in Luciferian Towers (2017), in which the brilliance of the first notes builds a structure that will predictably fall into ruins again… because that is the core of humanity.

Who knows in which direction. Thank God! Black Emperor. His last album, God’s pee in the State’s End! (2021) seems to complete a trilogy and wouldn’t be a bad way to end a career at all. It’s an album that in a way refers to the band’s beginnings, only with all the ideological and sonic baggage of so many years of their career.

Well, without ignoring the musical, Canadians seem to be more concerned with the political: “Evacuate the prisons, take away the power of the police, put an end to eternal wars and all other forms of imperialism.” was the document that accompanied the launch of G_d’s pee at State’s End!, an album in which The most shocking thing is not a musical note, but the shot of gunfire in “Where We Break How We Shine.” And here we are.

It’s telling that the cover of the last album is a reference to the Ouroboros, a symbol that represents the eternal cycle of things. So it looks like we’ll have to wait for a turnaround (another 10 years?) to have something new from this band (that…or some sort of reinvention).

For almost 30 years, this band has been talking about war, corruption, failed systems, excessive consumption. And that’s what we achieve, that’s what we continue to do. “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN,” they say in their last officially recorded composition, a prediction that seems impossible to come true… and Godspeed You! Black Emperor is not about predictions, but about the drawing of the end of the world. And the end is now.

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