Godspeed You Black Emperor's "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!"
Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s new album “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” -- for fans in waiting for 10 years – succeeds not in its tightness, but where the bolts are loose and their joints feel flung everywhere. Given the space of five minutes or 20, they fill up the moments with large and small matter, for the listener to apply their own context and analysis as the band grinds, heavy-lidded, through the noise-making they love.
For an instrumental group whose lineup is not complete without a film projectionist, they leave their story-telling generously open to interpretation. The new mystery machine begins with an urgent sound sample, of a man’s voice describing a someone “with his arms outstretched,” over and over again as the emergency gets clouded by guitars. First, it sounds of gulls, then washes of bleating, repeating scales, quarter tone gray matter, and then parting of the clouds into a drum march straight from the Occupy movement (car horns and all). And that’s just the first song.
And to looking too deeply for ultimate political or timely thesis is almost contrary to the clamor. The group’s drones of “Their Helicopters Sing” sounds like a Celtic orchestra warming up, the entropy of molecules seeking order, bellowing voices made mechanical, or simply a resting heart-rate exercise to get the to their next 20-minute workout. There isn’t the benefit (or distraction of lyrics), but the element of storytelling is still there in the dozens of electric instruments and their operating conductors. Why would they keep a glockenspiel in the studio anyway, if not to tell the whole story? Or the literal breath exhaling at end of exhaustively titled “Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable?” The Recording Gods even bless the room noise blaring toward the end of 20-minute highlight “We Drift Like Worried Fire,” perhaps only for the reason that it just sounds good there, allelujah.
It’s good to know there’s intentionality underneath all of that abstraction and chaos. That way, the infinite becomes immediate, even if you don’t know what the hell it all means.
Listen to the whole album below.