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Godspeed You! Black Emperor Review

The Nightmare Before Christmas, Butlin’s, Minehead
5 stars
If the Quebecois collective who make up the realigned Godspeed You!
Black Emperor make it to Glasgow for their Barrowland show tonight,
they will have navigated their way through a snow-bound landscape that
teetered dangerously close to the sort of disaster movie stuff the
group’s apocalyptically inclined soundscapes might well soundtrack. As
curators and headliners of the All Tomorrow’s Parties branded three-day
winter festival after almost a decade out of view, GY!BE’s return to
the fray now sounds like prophecy for a world even more messed up than
when they played their second ever UK show to twenty-odd observers in
Edinburgh’s Stills gallery in 1998.

Inbetween three different two-hour sets, Godspeed allow vent to an
eclectic array of more than forty fellow travelers across four stages,
from doom metal legends Neurosis to Serbian brass band the Boban I
Marko Markovic Orchestra and Daniel Menche’s singular turn amplifying
his own neck pulse. Philip Jeck’s experiments with old record players
reconfigures the crackles of the past, while tireless drummer Chris
Corsano almost steals the show three times, first in duo with Mick
Flower’s sitar-like Japan banjo, later in power trio Rangda with
guitarists Ben Chasny and Richard Bishop, adding ballast and taste to
Oneida’s twelve-hour Ocropolis project inbetween.

Even louder is the electronic dub of Kosmische duo Cluster, while a
stream of lesser known Canadian acts including the electro-acid jams of
Growing and two duos, the viola and drum-based Hanged Up and the drum
and guitar-led Yomul Yuk, show off Montreal’s underground in all its
glory.

Opening their own shows, GY!BE sit hunched clattering out an extended
drone in front of flickering Super 8 footage of the last ten years of
war, occasionally punctuated with the word ‘Hope’ in shaky chalk-white
letters. There may be three guitarists, two bassists and two drummers
up there, but what follows is no freeform wigout, but a textured,
concentrated and meticulously arranged affair where Sophie Trudeau’s
mournful violin lends a baroque urgency to an already ferociously
intense experience that surges from meditation to purging and back
again. While musically this marries Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western
twang to the spiritual heartbreak of Arvo Part, in oppositionist spirit
the band Godspeed most resemble is Crass, the English anarchist group
who explored similar alternative strategies. Combined, all this finds
Godspeed making some of the most vital, terrifying and emotive music of
the moment that should make tonight’s Glasgow show equally remarkable.

The Herald, December 8th 2010

ends

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