July 8, 2009

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F♯ A♯ ∞ (1997, Constellation/Kranky)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a nine-piece group from Montreal, Canada who create haunting and beautiful, organic post-rock music. They generated a buzz on the web in the late '90s with their fascinating debut LP "F♯ A♯ ∞", initially released in a limited editon of 500 on the Canadian label Constellation, and then pressed on CD and released in the US on Kranky. Along with Windy & Carl, GY!BE were one of the first Kranky groups I became aware of, and helped further Kranky's reputation as a leading influence in the post-rock scene. GY!BE produces its eerie sonic textures without any synthesizers or computer processing, and structures its long, poetically-titled tracks with a series of movements similar to avant-garde classical music. The instrumentation is based around cello, viola, three guitars, two basses, and two percussionists, along with field-recordings, spoken word and song. The music transitions smoothly from drone-ambient to post-rock jams to classical-sounding passages to experimental abstraction or musique concrète, generally evoking a feeling of sadness, decay, loss and also moments of beauty and peace. Along with the intensity of the music, another element of GY!BE's art are their amazing album covers and liner note design, which makes use of grainy black and white photographs, disturbing collage art and cut-up text, and charts or scores to follow along the movements within each track. "F♯ A♯ ∞" includes an image entitled "Faulty Schematics Of A Ruined Machine" which seems to perfectly sum up the tone of the album. GY!BE commenced to tour all over the world, and '00s "Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven!", also released on Kranky, brought the band even greater attention and popularity. In the early '00s, several of the band members also released similarly-styled side-project material under variations of the name The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra And Tra-La-La Band, as well as a solo-electronics project by drummer, Aidan Girt, named 1-Speed Bike . Since '03, GY!BE has been on "indefinite hiatus."