It took me a really long time to get into the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and there were a few reasons why. First of all everyone that I ever came into contact was absolutely ecstatic about them and would insist repeatedly that I listen to them. That’s strike one. The other thing that I couldn’t get my head around was why the songs had to be 20+ minutes long. I didn’t have the patience. Get me to the loud, fast parts and then let me be on my way.
Obviously a lot has changed, and after seeing them live I finally “got” it. It’s really about the journey. Not the Wind, Not the Flag are crafting songs that are just that: about the journey.
Things are considerably freer here than on anything that you would find on, say, a Godspeed album. The sound is rawer, more exciting, more alive. As you listen you can hear the songs coming into focus, taking shape and continuing in a logical trajectory. Just listening to the gradual buildup of “many monsters stand between us” as it grows louder and more active, full of distortion and just about to boil over with feedback I’m waiting for the guitar to just break away and soar into a solo. When the short burst of virtuosic guitar comes to the front it’s heavily shrouded in the noise and feedback atmosphere from where it came. And just as gradually and organically as the song grew, it returns to the somber, echoed and chorused guitar chord swells that began the track.
This is a duo that makes a lot of noise, and they definitely know how to fill a space. It’s almost equal parts Lightning Bolt and free-jazz freak out. The next track takes a much different approach, adding saxophone to the mix for a lot more of a melodically driven composition. That song, “in the province of the mind, there are no limits” is a whole other beast completely.
Definitely worth checking out. Listen above or head over to their bandcamp page. There are some other releases on there for you to listen to, though “the starmaker” from last year is their most recent. Keep an eye out for them if you are in the Toronto area.