The Mark of Excellence

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

By Alan RantaTo someone who recently discovered Godspeed You! Black Emperor, care of the Montreal-based post-rock collective's first album in ten years, 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! is a new ritual. Sprung on fans at a show in Boston a few weeks before its official release date, the vinyl album is a mesmerizing gatefold with imposingly stark images and a cryptic poem (seen on band T-shirts since at least February of 2011). The sleeve houses a twelve-inch with two 20-minute avant-rock sessions and a seven-inch with two ominous, noise-laden drones, intended to be played in the unusual order of A1-B1-A2-B2. Record owners are meant to be aware of the physicality of music, the connection between mind and body. The listener feels the analog sound waves hit their corporeal shells after manually switching records and placing the needle on each side, experiencing waves of dense, orchestral, progressive jams and drones as they swell up and wash over their souls, completing the ritual by both physically and emotionally engaging with the album. Its overall mystery is part of what makes it so alluring. To those who grew up listening to this group, the ritual and mystery are familiar, from their haunting, political aesthetic and aloof marketing strategies to the material, especially considering the jams on the twelve-inch, "Mladic" and "We Drift Like Worried Fire," are studio retoolings of live tracks "Albanian" and "Gamelan," dating back as far as 2003. It may take a while before 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! is accepted amongst the ranks of their earlier work, if that ever happens, but ultimately, this is the same epic, mystifying GY!BE as always.
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