godspeed you! black emperor – yanqui u.x.o

i don’t know how or where i first came across godspeed. i think it was some connection, again, to will oldham back in the earlier days of discovery. i am sure that i was in a record store in toronto in 2002 when i found this particular album, and recall a serious production error with the disc. that might explain why, in the same cover, i have two versions of the CD with the same liner note jackets…

funnily enough, the well-established pitchfork reviewer thought “production error” as well for the whole album, in relation to a perceived lack of features that made earlier godspeed releases powerful, and oddly an over-engineering by one steve albini.

what the reviewer seemed to want was the political stream to run through and be obvious – either in the form of spoken word recordings punctuating songs, or in massive violent crescendos that physiologically force the listener to consider what was happening. to his mind, in concluding the review, this was too beautiful to have any import.

i disagree. godspeed don’t need to always imbue their music with stark political comments from people saying so. a great example from their most recent release, which i will get to, is the song mladic.

i also disagree that there is some inherent lack of meaning in lyric-less music that, unless you beat people with its implied or literal subtext, makes it worthless. in fact, there’s not much else i would dispute more about music.

on this album there are elements of the quiet that don’t appear in other godspeed releases that make it almost more evocative of images in one’s head. this is where it relates, to me, to other instrumental bands like the dirty three who also release similar music each time an album comes about, but whose storytelling through their chosen voices is amazingly vivid and moving. on this i will philosophise further… but both these bands have made me weep (joy and despair).

so my conclusion of yanqui is that it is unique within the catalogue of godspeed, and provides a kind of respite from the broodiness and emotional force of their other releases. it shows to me just how nuanced their work has been over the more than fifteen years that they’ve been producing music for and of the world.

it’s easy for people to cast off this music as cinematic or background noise that sometimes enters the consciousness of people in the vicinity with those massive punctuations for which they are renowned. but i can never not focus on it when it’s playing, and there’s not a lot of music that can lay claim to such natural brilliance.

hope still, a little resistance always maybe stubborn tiny lights vs. clustering darkness forever ok?


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