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Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven CD (album) cover


Godspeed You! Black Emperor


Post Rock/Math rock

4.13 | 513 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars In an album deemed a masterpiece, there are a number of vital components. The album should be wholly unique, and deliver an experience altogether hitherto unmatched. If the ideas presented in the album's music is redundant, or is not fresh at all, or lacking any creative direction, or if it is blatant plagiarism, then no amount of musical prowess can make the album a masterpiece. Secondly, the music must be utterly atmospheric, and, moreover, create its own world. The listener should feel distanced from earth, from the material world, and the music should truly comfortably escort the listener into its new realm. Lastly, and rightly, most importantly, the album must have emotional resonance. It does not necessarily need to dish out endless stores of beautiful melodies; it simply has to linger in the psyche of the listener. A chord must be struck, something emotional - something within must genuinely haunted by the music. It is rare that an album will fulfill any of these goals fully, let alone each of them. The simple truth is that Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven is an album that executes all these goals, and is maybe even worthy of the tag masterpiece, yet it is not essential. The reasons: this album is certainly not suitable for all people, and many people who do not appreciate slow, contemplative, otherworldly music will loathe this passionately, and, also, it's so large in scale, and so long, and so layered and intimidating, that sometimes it is almost like a chore to listen to it entirely. Besides that, many spoken word segments grow annoying.

Every moment is overwhelmingly haunting. The classical nuances the band exercises, combined with the ambiance and spoken word recorded, come together to form a truly brilliant atmosphere, endlessly unfathomable, and eternally evolving. Ambient music has never been so full of character, and neither has post-rock been so vaporous. The structured segments are lingering, and uplifting, at times, but never to the extent of the "pop sensitive" post-rock groups, such as Explosions in the Sky. The sinister and foreboding factor is still chief, but not by a vast margin. There is a good deal of variation between moods, and the textures are just as diverse. The nine-piece Canadian group have a strange line-up for this type of music. Guitar, guitar, guitar, bass, bass, drums/percussion, drums/percussion, cello, violin. Two basses? Indeed. Three guitars? Indeed. And not a trace of keyboards. All these crazed, psychedelic effects generating ripples in the consciousness are not derived from keyboards or piano-based devises. Indeed there is some piano here and there, but no one on the line-up is in charge of piano alone: there's no pianist in the group. And, I believe, most of the effects produced on the album were analog, and, with the exception of studio tricks, non-electronic. But I may be wrong. Post-rock is traditionally guitar-led music, but GY!BE take it on themselves to explore different possibilities, and do not rely only on the guitar. In fact, I find the use of the guitar isn't huge compared to the orchestral instruments in the line-up. Sometimes spoken word is the leading instrument, with only some subtle violin strokes to darken the mood.

I do not much like going over an albums songs individually, and discussing the course of the song in detail. But this album is an exception, and I feel compelled to further describe this music to you.

Storm: The structured, throbbing beat is complemented by a simple and effective orchestral touch, and soon becomes more energetic and the throbbing continues to hypnotize. Eventually the structure gives over, and the spoken word of a Barco AM/PM employee takes charge. Something about the simple words is sinister; something about the subtle and murky orchestra behind the speaking really lingers with the listener. The spacey, the swirling effects renders the listener into a euphoric trance before slowly dimming.

Static: Gradually reaching an ambient atmosphere in the vein of the previous song, a processed preacher begins his spiritual speech as the violin and cello return to the scene. After our pious friend leaves the stage, a more malevolent and compelling sections arrives, throbbing slightly, until the pace picks up. With a very minimalist classical approach, things slowly evolve as the volume scale rises and falls, and other instruments, including bells/xylophone/glockenspiel (whatever that instrument is) which adds a most sharp and ecstatic touch. Energy builds, and the entire band joins in the quarrel. The sonic and layered sections evolve endlessly. After the release of tension, they drift into a cloudy section of mushy ambient music, with really dark moods and extraordinary effect.

With disc one finished, a more emotional, and a more captivating disc arrives. Pay attention to the artwork as you scuffle to switch discs - the disturbing and yet moving photos of men having their hands cut off by scissors, and masked men standing ominous and with authority will add to the overall mood of the album. Meaning may be troublesome to derive from the disquieting photos, but at least they're thought-provoking, and beautifully drawn.

Sleep: Reminiscing on the "old days" is an elderly man - and unlike the other spoken word segments: this one is not encumbered with layers of subtle orchestra. After the words, and the brief instrumental ambient rant thereafter, the guitar plays a melody. A melody? We've been out of stock of those during most of disc one. But don't worry - it soon is overcome by more instrumental playing with a more resonating and gripping feel. Energy builds slowly, like a mountain being forced out of the earth after years of tectonic movement. The mountain of energy transforms suddenly, into a much quicker sections. Soon, the tension is too great and the mountain collapses, falling again into euphoric textures. Again the mountain rises, climaxing more powerfully than ever, and continues firmly to the song's end.

Antennas to Heaven: The final track - the magnum opus. The acoustic section where Moya sings "Baby-O" is disturbing beyond knowing: the lyrical content "stick my finger in the baby's eye" is truly creepy, yet is impossible to turn away from. After the pithy glockenspiel duet, French school children (from Montréal, I'd not doubt, since that's the band's origin) sing children's songs. Memory eternally forgotten was unearthed, and returned to existence: these songs I sang when I was about three years old. That in itself was enough to make the whole album wholly surreal: but the following section is so absolutely gorgeous, so simple and sticking, so mind-bogglingly beautiful that my already frail self was blown to pieces. The orchestra and guitar finally go into overdrive, shouting out a most beautiful string of notes. The following ambient division is more unearthly than any before it, and as the final climax of the album approaches, the epic scale of the album is realized. From 7:45 on, some of the most beautiful music ever captured slowly erupts, before fully exploding and striking that internal chord unlike any musical excursion before. It is unfathomable that music can be so grand, so moving, and so epic. As the final climax ends, the music fades, into a last spinning section of spaced-out ambient. I had heard this album a few times, but not carefully - I hadn't listened to it. When I first listened to to it properly, I was (ironically) on very strong pain medication for just having my wisdom teeth removed, and was extremely spaced out. I was also drifting in and out of consciousness (though I could still focus on the music, strangely) and when that final climax hit, I was wrapped comfortably in endless layers of the surreal sound, struck violently, and confused. That feeling that I was experiencing was one of a kind, and I doubt I will ever experience anything similar again.

With all that being said, it takes a level of patience to completely appreciate this album, and only fans of slower, ambient-type, classical music will enjoy this entirely. Even those who love minimal, experimental, fuzzy, vaporous music might find this towering chore intimidating and sometimes daunting, but when we focus in, and truly sit down and emerge into the sounds, the experience is breath taking, and very, very rewarding. But for those whose minds are sculpted to appreciate this sophisticated form of music, do not hesitate in buying this gem. There's something genuinely special about this one. The end result is a most surreal experience, and the 87:23 spent listening to this album is some of the furthest 87 minutes you can spend away from earth without stepping inside a space ship. Maybe.

Shakespeare | 3/5 |


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