NBHAP Rating: 4,9/5
[one_half last=”yes”]GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR
Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
Label: Constellation Records
01. Peasantry Or ‘Light! Inside Of Light!’
02. Lamb’s Breath
03. Asunder, Sweet
04. Piss Crowns Are Trebled
It must have been a positive relieve for every cynisist in contemporary pop culture. The moment in which GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR‘s latest and after 10 years of silence rather surprising release Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! won the Polaris Music Prize in 2013, declaring it the most important album in Canada that year. It’s been a relieve not necessiraly because it won this prize – which proved its openmindedness before as it has been awarded to ARCADE FIRE, FUCKED UP and CARIBOU a.o. No, what made it special was how GODSPEED themselves dealt with it in an open letter published by their label Constellation. In it, the members explained WHY they won’t attend any award show of that kind (sponsored by Toyota), WHY they’re donating the prize money in favor of musically ambitioned prisoners in Quebec and WHY there will be no such thing as GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR proudly waving the flag of “Thank you! We love y’all!” – at least not without a big and underlined BUT; consequently, their letter ended on: “we love you so much / our country is fucked”.
GODSPEED YOU! is – after over 20 years of struggling to maintain righteousness within this poisoned field of artistry called rock – more than a band nowadays. It’s a statement. Everytime this Canadian collective reveals new music it is compared to their own high standards, both morally and musically. And with every release comes a reverend whispering: “Isn’t that new Godspeed You! massive/majestic/genious?”. It is that notion that, in fact, makes critizing their music somewhat pointless nowadays. Well well, here we are again, GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR have a new album out. It’s called Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress, contains 4 songs and 40 minutes of music. And yes, it’s massive/majestic/genious. That’s for the protocol. But critique in pop would be wasting itself if it stopped at “this band is beyond criticism, hail GY!BE“. So: WHY is this record important? WHY is it “arguably the most focused and best-sounding recording” (as such reads the press release) of their career?
Basically, because it is GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR in a nutshell. We have the melancholic monolith Peasantry Or ‘Light! Inside Of Light! at the beginning, two meandering, swelling drone and ambient tracks in the middle and the apocalyptic Piss Crowns Are Trebled at the end. But as you dig deeper into the grumbling guts of this record, you’ll notice that it sees a band fully aware of the importance of their music. Which doesn’t mean that the artists themselves are to be called arrogant douchebags, who just like to piss off every one else in the business with their proud denial of “how things ought to work”. GY!BE are picking up their own trails with this record, get rid of some embosomed ornaments and march along to their very own euphoric deathmarch. We hear no voice samples, just 4 songs, satisfied with 14 minutes playtime at most, all boiled down to the essence of a GODSPEED! record. What distincts it from generic post rock is, that, whilst listening to Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress, you are forced into the details of it all, with no time left for escapism or lazy daydreaming. This is urgent. And it’s focused.
All through their career GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR basically fought a battle of punk minds in theatrical bodies. They cut loose their huge walls of sound and didn’t care too much of how noisey it may sound in the end. With this record, there really seems to be a notion of: Let’s make it perfect, let’s enhance the impact. And so, what remains after the finishing seconds of Piss Crowns Are Trebled is devastating, exhausting, exciting in the best sense of the words. The build-up tension of middle tracks Lamb’s Breath and Asunder Sweet is nerve-twisting master class. The battle of violins, feedback, distortion and melancholic melody all carefully crashing into another is fought with profession. Therefore Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress is yet another piece of unmistakable, majestic ugliness, done in the name of love and commitment. THAT’s why it’s great. And THAT’S why GY!BE are still important. If only to remind us of how fucked up things are and that we mustn’t resign. In their own words: “stubbornness is a virtue”.
GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR’s sixth full-length presents a band fully aware of their importance – it is a restrained, dense and focused record, a masterpiece of unmistakable, majestic ugliness.