Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (Kranky’00) Rating: A-
This press shy Canadian 9-piece (not a misprint), perhaps the quintessential “post-rock” band, makes truly majestic mood music the likes of which I’ve never heard before. Sure, I hear echoes of Pink Floyd, Can, and Sonic Youth, among others, but Godspeed You! Black Emperor take those templates to the nth degree, and without the benefit of a vocalist (they do use spoken word field recordings) or a single virtuoso musician. Instead, they start simply and then slowly add layers of instrumentation (3 guitarists, 3 string instrument players (i.e. violins, cellos, etc.), 1 drummer, 1 percussionist (i.e. vibes, tympani, etc.), and 1 bass player – though I also hear horns and piano), eventually building to beautiful crescendos before beginning the process all over again. There are limitations to this repeatedly rising and falling formula, but the band’s massive symphonic sound (the word epic doesn’t even begin to describe it) hits some beautifully thrilling highs and lows (the band’s music typically has an undercurrent of sadness that’s deeply affecting) along the way. Granted, each of these four massive multi-sectioned songs has some filler minutes, and I wish that the band had edited out some of the more boring bits (the anti-climactic final five minutes of the often-fantastic second song, “Static,” for example). Still, though this album can be a bit of a patience tester (it’s not an album you put on for a quick ride to the corner store, that’s for sure!), this is one of the most ambitious and original bands around today. They may be overindulgent, but at their ultra-intense, hypnotic best (all four songs are impressive but the magnificent first track, “Storm,” is both the consensus best song on the album and my personal favorite, though “Sleep” at its best gives it serious a run for its money) Godspeed You! Black Emperor makes brilliantly unclassifiable headphone music.

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