Monday, May 02, 2016

Godspeed You Black Emperor!: F♯ A♯ ∞ (1997)


Since I was actively buying CDs in 1997, I bought this on CD and not on vinyl, which is too bad, because the original pressing is now worth a few dollars. So, I have a pressing from 2010. There are some noticeable differences between the vinyl and the CD releases, as noted on Discogs:

"The CD Re-issue of the Constellation LP. was remastered and changed in some areas, with some new material, and some material missing. It has a completely different booklet/cover/liner notes, but as with the lp, each track is made up of several different segments."

So, it's a good idea to have both versions, as I do.

As with the 1997 pressing, the 2010 pressing also came packaged with a number of items:

"Cover has a print glued in place, but not a photograph as on the first edition...
Inserts: a white on brown locomotive etching & an envelope containing the credit sheet, a handbill from a previous show, a blueprint of "faulty schematics for ruined machine" and a Canadian or American penny flattened by a train"

My copy has a flattened American penny, which brought back childhood memories. When we were kids, we would often put pennies on the train tracks near our house. That was fun.

So, if you don't already know, Godspeed You Black Emperor! is a Canadian post-rock band hailing from Montreal. Members of this band created a number of side projects, such as A Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire to Flames, Fly Pan Am, HṚṢṬA, and Esmerine. Wikipedia defines post-rock as: "a subgenre of rock music characterized by the influence and use of instruments commonly associated with rock, but using rhythms and "guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures" not traditionally found in rock. Post-rock bands are often without vocals. [source] Allmusic is much more succinct in its description of GYBE!, describing the music as "extended, repetition-oriented chamber rock. The minimal and patient builds-to-crescendo of the group's compositions results in a meditative and hypnotic listen that becomes almost narrative when combined with found-sound splices and the films of their visual collaborators."[source] I think that is a better description.

There are some vocals, spoken words, really, on some GYBE! tracks. The first piece on this LP, for example, has some rather interesting lyrics, which might be better described as a poem:

"The car's on fire and there's no driver at the wheel
And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
And a dark wind blows

The government is corrupt
And we're on so many drugs
With the radio on and the curtains drawn

We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
And the machine is bleeding to death

The sun has fallen down
And the billboards are all leering
And the flags are all dead
At the top of their poles

It went like this:
The buildings toppled in on themselves
Mothers clutching babies
Picked through the rubble
And pulled out their hair

The skyline was beautiful on fire
All twisted metal stretching upwards
Everything washed in a thin orange haze

I said: "Kiss me, you're beautiful - these are truly the last days."

You grabbed my hand and we fell into it
Like a daydream or a fever

We woke up one morning and fell a little further down
For sure it's the valley of death

I open up my wallet
And it's full of blood"

The above might partly explain why the members were once considered to be anarchists and were questioned by police in Oklahoma (the Wikipedia entry covers that incident). As Allmusic notes, "[t]he narratives that accompany the music meditate on the corruption of the American government and the seeming emptiness of the postmodern era." In the end, and despite awarding the record (CD is this case) only three stars, the reviewer concludes "This music is inherently inexplicable, and this is its beauty." [source] This is a five star release, in my opinion.

The Wikipedia entry for this record notes that the overall tone is apocalyptic and then offers this interesting piece of trivia:

"Indeed, English director Danny Boyle was heavily inspired by the album during the making of 28 Days Later. During an interview with The Guardian, he explained, "I always try to have a soundtrack in my mind [when creating a film]. Like when we did Trainspotting, it was Underworld. For me, the soundtrack to 28 Days Later was Godspeed. The whole film was cut to Godspeed in my head." [source]

If you have never heard this band, you are missing out on some really interesting music and one of Canada's greatest musical treasures.

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