Friday, 24 April 2015

godspeed one fighter

A review of godspeed you! black emperor at Manchester Albert Hall on April 17th 2015, written for Optical Sounds.

A noise drone rose slowly from a metal box on a table. Behind the open box sat a man intent on his gadgets within. The man called himself Total Life, so in order to avoid confusion, I will too. I presume the gradually increasing pink-grey noise approaching whiteout was the kind of music he likes. I think I'm pretty much done with the noise thing as nothing is ever going to top Daniel Menche's "Invoker," however as an opening warm up for the godspeedy hope drone it was perfect. It was a shame the volume wasn't twice as loud, as then it might've drowned out the incessant gabbling students. Even three people back from the barrier in front of the high stage their tedious small talk cut through the buzzing ambience of Total Life. Some seemed more impressed by the searchlight beams sweeping high up on the ceiling and past the stained glass windows. Afterwards I heard one loudmouth drunk shouting at his friend, "I like a bit of post-rock as much as the next man, and you are the next man, but that was just an intro." He had a point. It was an intro of sorts, and would have been more elegant if godspeed could have set up whilst he failed to break the sound barrier, and started playing as soon as he finished. Instead we watched ghost shadows pass the big screens behind the stage as Mauro fiddled with his bass and the two loudmouths made assinine sexist comments about the female roadie setting up godspeed gear. Luckily there wasn't too much talking whilst godpseed played, at least not ten feet from the great divide, but one big boy couldn't stop whooping like a little girl at a Take That concert every time godspeed played something he enjoyed. This was not nearly as annoying as the stupid girl who started whooping in my ear when Slint played and unlike her I didn't feel the need to ask him to shut up. Somehow his whoops blended into godspeed's heavenly apocalypse without causing further calamity. Slint were basically a precision honed museum piece, and extraneous excited screaming detracted drastically from their immaculate reception. With godspeed, it seemed such a response was not something to marr the listening experience but rather gave a sense of community as if somehow godspeed were screaming for all of us. What were they screaming? The easy answer would be one word flashing down at us from the cinema size screens on which Karl Lemieux cast his projections: HOPE. The first godspeeders to take the stage were violinist Sophie Trudeau, contre-bassist Thierry Amar and drummer / droner Timothy Herzog. They set up a low level drone that slowly gathered mass as bassist Mauro and drummer Aidan Girt joined them for some skittery almost jazzy percussion, in an almost Tortoise-like opening gambit. As Efrim Menuck picked up his guitar the revelation that they were beginning their set with a new piece of music hit. As the other two guitarists Michael Moya and David Bryant sat down to play and Thierry switched to bass, the power of HOPE hammered as Karl shot us all along railtracks. Tower blocks loomed. Silver, copper, corn, hogs and pork bellies crashed the stock market, and by the time they launched into their most exhilarating piece "Their Helicopters Sing" I felt like I was flying. Of course some drunken fool had to bring me down by stupidly leaning on me and another guy in front of him when there was plenty of room for him to stand on his own feet. When I asked him to stop doing it he denied any knowledge of his irksome behaviour and I had to shove him a few times which must have looked a bit odd as most everyone else was stood still enraptured by the magnificent music blessing their ears and mindbrains. More new music had a pastoral almost chamber beginning, highlighting Sophie's violin, accompanied by film of flowers and gardens. There was pretty much enough music for a whole new album already, and their ninety minute set ended with the entirety of their recent fifth album "Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress," music that already feels as if I've known it for all eternity. There was no encore and I hurried out to catch the latter part of Cantaloupe's set at the Eagle, whereupon I spied Efrim smoking outside. It was nice to meet him again after over a decade. Along with Thierry and former godspeed cellist Norsola, he stayed at my flat after they played their first ever Manchester gig, which I think was also their first in the UK and the last time I spoke to him was after A Silver Mount Zion played the now defunct Planet K. He looked hardly a day older. Maybe he's almost as timeless as the music blesses the world with?

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