Godspeed You Black Emperor

Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a Canadian experimental music collective which originated in MontrealQuebec in 1994. The group releases recordings through Constellation, an independent record label also located in Montreal. After the release of their debut album in 1997, the group toured regularly from 1998 to 2003. Their second album, 2000’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, received great critical acclaim and has been named as one of the best albums of the decade. In 2003, the band announced an indefinite hiatus in order for members to pursue other musical interests. In the intervening period, the group was occasionally rumored to have broken up, but finally reconvened for a tour which began in late 2010. Since reforming, they have released three more albums, the most recent being Luciferian Towers in September 2017.

The band has gained a dedicated cult following and remains very influential in the post-rock genre. In September 2013, their fourth album and their comeback release after 10 years, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, won the 2013 Polaris Music Prize.

The band is also known for their song “East Hastings” from the 1997 album F♯ A♯ ∞, which was used in the film 28 Days Later in an edited version, although “East Hastings” does not appear on the soundtrack album because the rights to the song could not be obtained.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor performing live in Roadburn festival in 2018
Efrim Menuck playing the guitar on his lap
Mauro Pezzente playing bass guitar
David Bryant playing guitar
Sophie Trudeau playing the violin
History

Godspeed You! Black Emperor was formed in 1994 in MontrealQuebec, by Efrim Menuck (guitar), Mike Moya (guitar), and Mauro Pezzente (bass). The band took its name from God Speed You! Black Emperor, a 1976 Japanese black-and-white documentary by director Mitsuo Yanagimachi, which follows the exploits of a Japanese biker gang, the Black Emperors. The band initially assembled after being offered a supporting act for another local band named Steak 72. Thereafter, the trio performed live on a few separate occasions.

The band quickly expanded and continued to perform live periodically. According to Menuck, joining the group was quite simple: “It was like if anyone knew anybody who played an instrument and seemed like an okay person, they would sort of join up.” In short order, the group’s numbers ebbed and flowed. Local musicians would often join the band for a handful of performances, then depart. The revolving door nature of the group’s membership frequently caused it strain before the release of F♯ A♯ ∞. After that release, the group stabilized around a nine-person lineup with Menuck, Moya and David Bryant on guitars, Pezzente and Thierry Amar on bass guitars, Aidan Girt and Bruce Cawdron on drums, and Sophie Trudeau and Norsola Johnson on violin and cello respectively. Moya would depart in 1998 to focus on HṚṢṬA, being replaced by Roger Tellier-Craig of Fly Pan Am.

Although various members of the band are often pinned down as anarchists, for a rather long time no one in the band explicitly subscribed to this label; however, as of 2014, Menuck was calling himself an anarchist. In any case, there is a strong political component to the band’s music. Much of the band’s music exudes left-wing themes. For example, the liner notes to Yanqui U.X.O. describe the song “09-15-00” as “Ariel Sharon surrounded by 1,000 Israeli soldiers marching on al-Haram Ash-Sharif & provoking another Intifada,” and the back cover of that album depicts the relationships of several major record labels to the military–industrial complex. Several of its songs also incorporate voice samples which express political sentiments, most notably “The Dead Flag Blues” (on F♯A♯∞) and “BBF3” (on Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada).

Members of the group have formed a number of side projects, including Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La BandFly Pan AmHṚṢṬAEsmerine, and Set Fire to Flames.

The band released the CD versions of its first two albums and EP on the Kranky record label, and released the LPs through Constellation Records. All editions of their subsequent studio material have been released through Constellation.

In 2004, long-time guitarist Roger Tellier-Craig left the band on amicable terms to devote more time to Fly Pan Am.

The group was once misconstrued as being a band of terrorists. After stopping at a local gas station for fuel in the town of Ardmore, Oklahoma, during their 2003 tour of the United States, the station attendant working that day believed the group of Canadians to be terrorists. She quickly passed a note to another customer asking them to call the police. When the local police appeared, the group was held until it could be questioned by the FBI. Although the police were suspicious of the band’s anti-government documents and some photos it had (such as those of oil rigs), they found no incriminating evidence. After background checks were run, the ensemble was released from custody and continued on its way to its next show in Saint Louis, MOEfrim Menuck later spoke to the crowd during their appearance in Missouri about what happened to them and speculated that their origin was a motive for being released quickly (“It’s a good thing we’re nice white kids from Canada”). The incident was mentioned in Michael Moore‘s book Dude, Where’s My Country?.

In 2010, the band reported it was reuniting for an All Tomorrow’s Parties music event in the UK as well as further US dates. Mike Moya re-joined the band for the reunion, while original cellist Norsola Johnson declined to participate. The band played a full North American and European tour in 2011, and more dates in the UK including an appearance at the ATP ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror‘ music festival in London.

The following year the band appeared at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago and the 2012 All Tomorrow’s Parties I’ll Be Your Mirror festival in New York. Drummer Timothy Herzog began touring with the band after the departure of Bruce Cawdron.

In 2013, the band won the Polaris Music Prize, but it criticized the cost of the ceremony during the time of austerity, stating, “Maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords.”

On March 31, 2015, Godspeed You! Black Emperor released its fifth album, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress. On September 22, 2017, the group released its sixth album, Luciferian Towers.

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Members
Current

Efrim Menuck – guitar, tape loops, keyboards (1994–2003, 2010–present)
Mauro Pezzente – bass guitar (1994–2003, 2010–present)
Mike Moya – guitar (1994–1998, 2010–present)
Thierry Amar – double bass, bass guitar (1997–2003, 2010–present)
David Bryant – guitar, tape loops (1997–2003, 2010–present)
Aidan Girt – drums, percussion (1997–2003, 2010–present)
Sophie Trudeau – violin (1997–2003, 2010–present)
Karl Lemieux – film projections (2010–present)Timothy Herzog – drums, percussion (2012–present)Philippe Leonard – film projections (2015–present)
Former

John Littlefair – film projections (1994–2000)
Thea Pratt – French horn (1995–1997)
Bruce Cawdron – drums, percussion (1997–2003, 2010–2012)
Norsola Johnson – cello (1997–2003)
Grayson Walker – accordion (1997)
Roger Tellier-Craig – guitar (1998–2003)
James Chau – keyboards, harpsichord, guitar (2000)
Peter Harry Hill – bagpipes (2000)
Fluffy Erskine – film projections (2000–2003)
A tempestade dos Godspeed You! Black Emperor no Hard Club ~ Threshold  Magazine
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Discography

Main article: Godspeed You! Black Emperor discography

Studio albums

LP jacket made from 80lb. burgundy textured uncoated cardstock with blind embossed front cover text. Three different front cover images (train, water tower, highway lights) are hand-glued on the front cover (original first run of 500 featured black and white darkroom prints; subsequent editions are offset printed). Back covers are individually hand-drawn with illuminated cross icon and catalogue number and are hand-stamped with Constellation logo; all in silver ink. Inserts include a penny crushed on Montreal railroad tracks, blueprint album graphic and notes, credit sheet and reproduction of an early GY!BE show handbill – all placed inside a plain manila envelope (original first run of 500 featured acetone transfers hand-printed on each envelope). Additional 8″x8″ insert card of train locomotive image silkscreened in various colours on various recycled papers over the years.

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TRACKLIST:
1. SIDE A: nervous, sad, poor
2. SIDE B: bleak, uncertain, beautiful
credits
released August 14, 1997

Aidan (drums), Bruce (drums), Christophe (violin), David (guitar), Efrim (guitar), Mauro (bass), Moya (guitar, banjo), Norsola (cello), Thea (french horn), Thierry (bass).

Recorded and mixed on 16-track reel-to-reel at thee mighty Hotel2Tango in Montreal by the band along with Don and Ian, May 1997.
1.The Dead Flag Blues 16:27
2.East Hastings 17:58
3.Providence 29:02
credits
CD released June 8, 1998
  • Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada (1999)
1.Moya 10:51
2.Blaise Bailey Finnegan III 17:46
credits
released March 29, 1999
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1.Storm 22:32
2.Static 22:35
3.Sleep 23:17
4.Like Antennas To Heaven… 18:57
credits
released November 8, 2000
1.09-15-00 16:27
2.09-15-00 (cont.) 06:16
3.Rockets fall on Rocket Falls 20:42
4.motherfucker=redeemer 21:22
5.motherfucker=redeemer (cont.) 10:10
about
U.X.O. is unexploded ordnance is landmines is cluster bombs. Yanqui is post-colonial imperialism is international police state is multinational corporate oligarchy. Godspeed You! Black Emperor is complicit is guilty is resisting. The new album is just raw, angry, dissonant, epic instrumental rock. Recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago and mixed by Howard Bilerman and Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the original Hotel2Tango in Montreal.

Stubborn tiny lights vs. clustering darkness forever ok?
credits
released November 11, 2002

PERSONNEL
Aidan, Bruce, David, Efrim, Mauro, Norsola, Roger, Sophie, Thierry

GUESTS
Josh Abrams: contrabass on TRACK 4/5
Matana Roberts: clarinet on TRACK 4/5
Geof Bradfield: bass clarinet on TRACK 4/5
Rob Mazurek: trumpet on TRACK 4/5

Recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago IL by Steve Albini. Mixed by Howard Bilerman and GY!BE at thee mighty Hotel2Tango. Mastered at Abbey Road in London UK by John Loder and Steve Rooke.
1.Mladic 19:59
2.Their Helicopters Sing 06:30
3.We Drift Like Worried Fire 20:07
4.Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable 06:31
about
These are the first new recordings by Godspeed You! Black Emperor since 2002. Featuring two twenty-minute slabs of epic instrumental rock music and two six-and-a-half minute drones, ‘ALLELUJAH! DON’T BEND! ASCEND! provides soaring, shining proof of the band’s powerful return to form.

Having emerged from hiatus at the end of 2010, GYBE picked up right where they left off, immediately re-capturing the sound and material that had fallen dormant in 2003 and driving it forward with every show of their extensive touring over the last 18 months. The new album presents the fruits of that labour: evolved and definitive versions of two huge compositions previously known to fans as “Albanian” and “Gamelan”, now properly titled as “MLADIC” and “WE DRIFT LIKE WORRIED FIRE” respectively. Accompanied by the new drones (stitched into the album sequence on CD; cut separately on their own 7″ for the LP version), GYBE have offered up a fifth album that we feel is as absolutely vital, virulent, honest and heavy as anything in their discography.

We don’t have much time for mythology, but we’d be lying if we said the return of Godspeed You! Black Emperor in 2010 didn’t signify a whole lot to us as a marker from which to look back on…
  more
credits
released October 16, 2012

PERSONNEL
Thierry Amar, David Bryant, Bruce Cawdron, Aidan Girt, Efrim Manuel Menuck, Michael Moya, Mauro Pezzente, Sophie Trudeau, Karl Lemieux.


Tracks 1 and 3 recorded at Hotel2Tango by Howard Bilerman. Tracks 2 and 4 recorded at the band’s jamspace, mixed by Amar, Menuck, Bryant and Moya at The Pines.

Mastered by Harris Newman at Greymarket.

Cover photograph by Charles-André Coderre. Burnt 16mm frames by Karl Lemieux, re-photographed by Yannick Grandmont. “Atonal Canada” photo by Timothy Herzog. Others images by Bryant/Menuck/Lemieux.
1.Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’ 10:28
2.Lambs’ Breath 09:52
3.Asunder, Sweet 06:13
4.Piss Crowns Are Trebled 13:50
about
Godspeed You! Black Emperor (GYBE) returns with its first single LP-length release since the group’s earliest days in 1997-99. ‘Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress’ clocks in at a succinct 40:23 and is arguably the most focused and best-sounding recording of the band’s career. Working with sound engineer Greg Norman (Electrical Audio) at studios in North Carolina and Montreal, GYBE slowly and steadily put the new album together through late 2013 and 2014, emerging with a mighty slab of superlative sonics, shot through with all the band’s inimitable signposts and touchstones: huge unison riffage, savage noise/drone, oscillating overtones, guitar vs. string counterpoint, inexorable crescendos and scorched-earth transitions.

Following Godspeed’s return from a long hiatus at the end of 2010 to begin playing live shows again, and with the hugely acclaimed ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! release in 2012 marking their first new release in a decade, the group continued to perform regularly on their own headlining tours (and as headliners at many leading festivals), often including a new multi-movement piece in concert over the past couple of years. Known to fans and through live show recordings by the sobriquet “Behemoth”, GYBE has gradually distilled this new work down to a fastidious and uncompromising essence in the…
  more
credits
released March 31, 2015

PERSONNEL
Thierry Amar: Bass and contrebasse
David Bryant: Electric guitar, portasound, organs and drones
Aidan Girt: Drums
Timothy Herzog: Drums and drones
Efrim Manuel Menuck: Electric guitar
Michael Moya: Electric guitar
Mauro Pezzente: Electric bass
Sophie Trudeau: Violins and drones
Karl Lemieux: 16mm film projections

Recorded by Greg Norman at Fidelitorium, Hotel 2 Tango and The Pines.
Mixed by Greg Norman and GYBE at Mixart and Hotel 2 Tango.
Masted by Harris Newman at Greymarket.
1.Undoing A Luciferian Towers 07:47
2.Bosses Hang, Pt. I 04:39
3.Bosses Hang, Pt. II 04:40
4.Bosses Hang, Pt. III 05:24
5.Fam/Famine 06:44
6.Anthem For No State, Pt. I 03:05
7.Anthem For No State, Pt. II 02:55
8.Anthem For No State, Pt. III 08:36
about
this, this long-playing record, a thing we made in the midst of communal mess, raising dogs and children. eyes up and filled with dreadful joy – we aimed for wrong notes that explode, a quiet muttering amplified heavenward. we recorded it all in a burning motorboat.

(context as follows:)

1. UNDOING A LUCIFERIAN TOWERS – look at that fucking skyline! big lazy money writ in dull marble obelisks! imagine all those buildings much later on, hollowed out and stripped bare of wires and glass, listen- the wind is whistling through all 3,000 of its burning window-holes!

2. BOSSES HANG – labor, alienated from the wealth it creates, so that holy cow, most of us live precariously! kicking at it, but barely hanging on! also – the proud illuminations of our shortened lives! also – more of us than them! also – what we need now is shovels, wells, and barricades!

3. FAM / FAMINE – how they kill us = absentee landlord, burning high-rise. the loud panics of child-policemen and their exploding trigger-hands. with the dull edge of an arbitrary meritocracy. neglect, cancer maps, drone strike, famine. the forest is burning and soon…
  more
credits
released September 22, 2017

PERSONNEL
Aidan Girt: Drums
David Bryant: Electric guitar, MG-One
Efrim Manuel Menuck: Electric guitar, organ, OP-1
Karl Lemieux: 16mm film projections
Mauro Pezzente: Electric bass
Michael Moya: Electric guitar
Sophie Trudeau: Violins, organ
Thierry Amar: Contrebasse, electric bass
Timothy Herzog: Drums

GUESTS ON TRACK ONE
Bonnie Kane (saxophone, flute, electronics)
Craig Pederson (trumpet)

Recorded by Greg Norman at Hotel 2 Tango and The Pines.
Mixed by Greg Norman and GYBE at Hotel 2 Tango.
Masted by Harris Newman at Greymarket.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor and symbolic anarchism

Canada of 1997 summarized in a photo
Nilo Vieira

In 1997, the post-rock label was recent and even made sense in different bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The central pillars of rock (guitar, bass and drums) were there, but they were used in compositions closer to Steve Reich and Ennio Morricone – riffs and solos were replaced by textures and orchestrations, long-lasting pieces were the rule. After this description, it sounds contradictory to suggest that the Canadian nonet also represents a new chapter in the history of the punk movement. When considering this term as a set of ideas (and not a musical style based on three chords), the comparison becomes more palpable: the group’s name came from a homonymous documentary about motorcycle gangs in Japan – watch here, the members publicly declare themselves anarchists and have released material for the underground label Constellation since forever.

The influence of punk aesthetics is clear on Godspeed You! Black Emperor, F♯ A♯ ∞ (1997). The vinyl version is handcrafted to this day and includes a crumpled coin on train tracks, while the booklet accompanying CD looks like a zine. If the Ramones broke the seventies’ standards by encapsulating rock energy in short three-chord songs, GY! BE proposes the opposite. Despite the presence of more instruments, the nucleus remains minimalist but, between spoken excerpts, drones and blues tones, the compositions resemble long fragmented collages. A visceral exaltation of anarchy, together with the reminder of how different individuals build a powerful collective over time – as the cover shows, the process took time.

The challenge was no longer to create instant hymns for the revolution, but to trap the listener for more than fifteen minutes in pieces of poignant emotion. Instead of verses about destroying the system, inserts made with illustrations, diagrams and poetic notes served as a reflective foundation. Explaining the notion that even an “instrumental” album is not limited to the choice of timbres is radical today, even more so in an incisive way. Twenty years after its release, F♯ A♯ ∞ remains a masterpiece, political in all aspects.

Cut to September 2017. Five years after the return of Godspeed with the excellent ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (2012) – responsible together with The Seer (2012), also pioneering Swans, injecting creative energy back to post-rock – the conservative wave gains strength around the entire planet. Chaos is widespread, Donald Trump and Michel Temer make vexing headlines every week. The future is cloudy.

In this scenario, the band’s sixth album, Luciferian Towers (2017) is released and the political position is more demarcated than ever. The cover refers directly to the debut, the song titles are aggressive. “Bosses Hang” (hanged bosses), “Anthem for no State” (anthem for no state), “Fam / Famine” (family and hunger). As a protest, the disc will not be sent to Israel and the official release ends pragmatically:

finally and in conclusion;
the “luciferian towers” ​​L.P. was informed by the following grand demands:

  • an end to foreign invasions
  • an end to borders
  • the total dismantling of the prison-industrial complex
  • healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right
  • the expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again.

Everything was heading towards an LP consistent with the current times, do not sin the little more than 40 minutes for the lack of inspiration and, worse, for playing in the comfort zone. The ninetide gets it right when he returns to less linear compositions and does not rely on cathartic crescendos, but the environmental approach does not work. While records like Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven! (2000) and Yanqui U.X.O. (2002) use silent layers to immerse the listener into the music, Luciferian Towers shows himself accommodated in the function of external background track. The nuances exist, but the lack of variation (forget about drones, field recordings, spoken word and massive distortions) makes things ethereal beyond the recommended.

Considering that much of the freshness of ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (2012), marked by pre-hiatus compositions, comes from the aggressive turn put in the foreground, it is almost ironic that the most recent album has the most hopeful sound of Godspeed’s career. Perhaps the message is that, before going into the fight, an individual needs to regain his own inner strength; it is notable that the band still values ​​building above destruction, as a tool for spiritual and political emancipation.

The contrast between serene textures and violent titles is an interesting subversion of concepts, and reveals that the theatrical sense that made GY! BE different in the 90s is still there. The mistake lies in thinking that just the suggestion of anarchy is enough. These are times of fiery discussions between political quarters, where even memes that should go into the ditch of oblivion in hours gain spotlight: the insistence on symbolic load not only seems to have been confused with practical load, but often appears to be a priority.

For a group that knows how to reconcile cryptic and solid, the balance needed to be better balanced this time. The possibility of Luciferian Towers gaining another meaning on stage (with the traditional background projections and rawer timbres) exists, but it does not improve the bitter feeling that F♯ A♯ com, with just two decades old, sounds a lot. most current in 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDhKhucVT-9sNQExgHPcabg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godspeed_You!_Black_Emperor

https://brainwashed.com/godspeed/

https://godspeedyoublackemperor.bandcamp.com/music

Publicado por Aryon Maiden

Aficionado pela música em todos os momentos.

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