Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Yanqui U.X.O.

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Montreal politico-art/music terrorist unit Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been working on the material for Yanqui U.X.O. (unexploded ordnance-landmines) for the past four years. Some of the material predates Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and even Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada. Recorded with Steve Albini, the nonet that is Godspeed has issued its most mysterious recording yet. The sound over these three long cuts, like all of the band's recordings, develops slowly over time and creates layers of dynamic tension that expresses itself in waves and off-kilter, shimmering flows. Usually these elements resolve themselves in earth- and ear-shattering, dissonant intensity that leaves the listener emotionally drained -- especially live. But here, a more minimal and -- dare I say -- quiet approach is used. For over 75 minutes, no "found" voices are wafting through the mix like displaced ghosts at a musical inquiry into the nature of mass control and fascism. The ghosts here are not disembodied or free to roam; they are contained within the vibrational structures and harmonic encounters along the dynamic field itself. There is more melody, not less; there are more sections in each piece, complex parts of compositions that articulate themselves more slowly and pronouncedly. Above all, there is beauty, aching, anguished beauty created by dissonance between electric guitars, keyboards, and a string section propelled by a drum kit that is barely contained within the frame of the music. Tonal extensions of simple melodic structures create new melodic fragments that are incorporated into an already growing mass of tension that is alleviated not by force, but by engaging silence as a compositional and improvisational tool. This is evident in all three tunes, but particularly in the second section of "9-15-00," which begins by stepping out of a void into a fullness of color and texture that eventually raises the tension bar over 22 minutes without resolution. For the second section, spare fragments and chords are placed carefully next to the altar of silence and engage it in dialogue, in contradiction, and in echoing its own concerns at how it is possible in our world, very possible, that at the whim of some fool, all of this -- the music; it's haunted, hunted melody; the veritable grain of its voice; along with all life -- could enter into the silence forever. A close inspection of the record cover with its photograph of bombs in free-fall and its indicting chart shows concretely how the major record labels are all involved with the creators and purveyors of weapons of mass destruction. This may be melancholy music, but this is a dark time. At least it isn't music of mourning -- yet. And for the record, though the critical backlash against Godspeed You! Black Emperor has already begun, this is music for a different kind of engagement; one that sets its own agenda and pushes against its own history.

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