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Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F# A# ∞ CD (album) cover

F# A# ∞

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Post Rock/Math rock

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5 stars Another excellent album full of their existential Morricone-esque soundscapes and tonal hypnotic themes. GODSPEED work in completely their own musical space where we hear desolate guitar twang, echoey dobro slide, sweetly mournful violin and cello, and an astonishingly patient rhythm section. F# A# [Infinity] is essentially 3 wild and long tracks with a full barrage of musical allusions captuing that temporal nebula we all stive to find in music (we do don't we ?). Even some nice bagpipes for my wife ! ESSENTIAL..!

Report this review (#32036)
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars "f#a#{infinity}" is a severly good album. Three extended tracks that have much akin to Kraut-rock, except for the fact that GYBE! never uses synth. The album begins with "The Dead Flag Blues." The first thing you hear is, well, nothing. Then a slow rumbling of sustained bowed bass rumbles with a great spoken word intro. You get the tone of the album right there: apocalypse. "East Hastings" follows and then the 30- minute "Providence." All three tracks have multiple sections. However, don't assume that any piece is a calculated whole, as these sections just flow into one another, with very little connection musically or thematically. A very good debut album, but only hinting at the heights to be scaled from that point on.
Report this review (#32037)
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really. Although all of the albums of GYBE! are good , this first album is the utmost original as the following ones only repeat the formula albeit more refined. I have a tendency to couple this debut with the EP second release as my favourite one. It is always disturbing to see that a group is not giving more info about itself or its music and is maintaining this "flou artistique " that we as progheads find derangesome . My fellow reviewers describe acurately the music especially James with the astonishingly patient rythm section.

GYBE! is seen now as the leading group in this strange current of music called Post-Rock and somewhat give a new meaning to that music genre: The Post Atomic Rock . Some of the climaxes have all the drama of an atomic explosion and the quieter moments are sometimes so gloomy (and tearingly beautiful ) that it feels just like the survivors of the blast are gathering what they can .

A real must hear and listen and hunting down and acquiring for fans of unconventional music. From my experiences , most neo-prog fans (at least the ones I know ) do not really endorse this band as the constant mayhem seem to disturb them.

Report this review (#32039)
Posted Wednesday, July 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Godspeed You Black Emperor! the band name, album name and track titles don't give away anything about what kind of music is on the disc and leaves the listener without a clue what to expect, very cleverly. I was expecting total weird music like pink floyd meets soundchaser meets radiohead. I guess this music is very weird yet it is also very formal, beautiful and splendidly orchestrated and arranged.

This music is full out, progressive expansive instrumental pieces using a lovely array of instruments to create a progressive and almost spacey sound which is very multi layered and professional. I see a strong Mike Oldfield influence in this band and similar concept ideas. Each piece on this album has a slow build up that gradually gets more and more layered until it explodes into a great finale before it travels to the next movement within the suite or next track. Each track normally has an epic climax too.

This album, along with their others are very gentle and relaxed. They demand lots of patience but i see it as great music to have on in the background. The music they have created is very daring and is really one of a kind. There is so much beauty in the vision they have created. The band combine their pieces with voices over the top of the music raising interesting messages. "The Dead Flag Blues" has an incredible monologue that narrates most of the track with some very touching and honest subjects mentioned. It fits in well and doesn't spoil the music at all. It really adds to the dark ambience of the piece and adds drama to the album. A brilliant opening. The looming basslines and ebow/violin parts deserve a lot of credit to for fueling this track along. I see this as one of the most defining post rock tunes.

This piece then travels into the next movement which starts with a train horn. "East Hastings" ends with some really eerie sounds which i found were a strong highlight on the album. "Providence", lasting half an hour long, is one of the strongest pieces and progresses well. It has strong talk about a preacher man and the end of the world too so you can really learn a lot from this music!

There isn't really any general parts of each track that i can directly pinpoint and comment on. It really needs to be taken in as a whole. I know this kind of music isn't for everyone but i strongly urge people to be daring and give anything by this band a listen as it is very rewarding and beautiful. Its not one of those things you might want to listen to all the time but just one listen will satisfy any listener and let people see how good this band are.

"F#A#00" is quite a defining post rock release. This was one of the very first major post rock genre releases which came out even before the stereotypical post rock cardboard gatefold cd holders. "F#A#" is most definetly my favourite GYBE! album and one that i find to be a landmark post rock album.

Report this review (#32041)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The debut of the Canadian ensemble is much like the albums that were to come, quiet parts that reach a hectic climax and then recede to another quiet moment. On this album, the presentation of said attribute is very well done. The intrumental bombastic-ness is impressive, and it takes a bit for the music to sink in, but overall I was given an awe- inspiring experience. The violins mix well with the guitar and bass during the quiet sections, and the textured guitar tones fit well with the rest of the cast of instruments during the hectic sections.

It is too hard to describe all of the tracks, so I'll describe my favorite one on the album. The Dead Flag Blues is an utterly perfect track to me, with sultry spoken vocals in the beginning, to the ghostly choir in the middle, to the bells near the end. It all mixes together and creates the perfect environment.

Overall, I feel that this album is a great start, and more excellent material was to follow. 4.5/5.

Report this review (#38591)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was very surprised by this album. Reminds me Morte Macabre but a little bit more metal. Three long pieces with many long melancholic passages and euphoric explosions of prog (metal?... sometimes). A great work, with powerful guitar arrangements and astonishing drums... Experimenatal or post rock?? I dont't know, but it sounds like a possible classic. Ask me in 10 years...
Report this review (#40430)
Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars When most acts, regardless of genre, were eating themselves up and running the same tired formula into the ground there were a few acts forming something a bit more exclusive. In the time of fast living and short attention spans Godspeed You Black Emperor! surprizingly worked. And I suppose because at the time it was a much needed shot in arm, if only to escape the nothingness that surrounded it. The dense fat lengthy orchestrated tunes were curious, hypnotic and engaging, slowed down the melancholic pace opened the mind, you could roll a joint while becoming saturated in the intro of any piece as it grew and became condensed into the atmosphere. The music grew. If anything the only negative I had with F# A# oo was the political narrative behind and which inspired some of the music, but I could forget that and deal with it as best I could, I much prefer my music to be as apolitical as possible. There was a time when albums and their cover artwork somehow combined together and gelled to form one, you could almost taste the music from the cover so to speak. For the first time in a very long while the cover of F# A# oo spoke to me and told me of the story that could be contained within if I was only eager to venture.
Report this review (#48346)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Their best album. Not as even as Yanqui U.X.O but when they are "on" here, boy are they on (the build up to the 12-13 minute mark of East Hastings should get anyone's adrenaline flowing, and minutes 13-16 on Providence are not far behind). These crescendos make the nothingness in between forgiveable (unlike Lift Your Skinny Fists where the meandering is rarely interjected by anything too challenging).
Report this review (#60371)
Posted Thursday, December 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
5 stars A few years ago I was sitting in my office working at my desk with the radio playing quietly behind me. It was tuned to a local college station that I like to listen to during the day because they play a lot of eclectic music, and it helps pass the day. At some point I found myself just kind of mesmerized, almost as if I was in some kind of trance. I was just zoned out, and after a while I was jarred back to reality by this exploding whirl of noises coming out of the radio. To put it mildly – I was blown away! I think I saw God.

I called the radio station to ask the guy what he had just played, but unfortunately he must have been taking a crap or something because I just got an answering machine, so I looked up the station and sent them an email. A couple days later I got a reply with the playlist from that morning’s show. Turns out what caught me so off guard was the crescendo from “Providence” that peaks about halfway during that song. This was my first introduction to Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Since then I’ve picked up F# A# Infinity, Lift Your Skinny Fists…, and Yanqui U.X.O., and each work is progressively better and more seductive than the one before it, but “Providence” ranks today as one of my ten or twelve favorite songs ever by any band. The creativity, sense of musical exploration, and most importantly – the patience that went into creating this work of art are just incredible. This album somehow manages to sound completely raw, and yet infinitely calculated at the same time. Whatever this kind of music is, it is above all the highest form of expressive art.

I rarely comment on packaging of CDs, as they are almost never as interesting as the old vinyl albums sleeves used to be. But this one actually reveals a bit about the band, even though the musicians and their instruments are never really identified beyond the comment “16 rented tracks moving 7.5 inches per second into ampex456 W/OUT ANY KEYBOARDS”, buried in a rambling story about (apparently) the history behind the recording of the album, and a string of first names under the heading “godspeed you black emperor! (1995-1998)”. The story is about the band’s haphazard effort to put together the album (unless they are just making the whole thing up), and the various sketches and clippings surrounded by a starkly written divorce petition typed onto tissue paper actually are a good reflection of the type of music contained on the CD. It is all interesting, seemingly unrelated, and somewhat abstract even though each represents a concrete object or idea.

The “Dead Flag Blues” wanders along at an almost maddeningly slow pace, with the deep drawl of the narrator recounting a story about nothing much in particular. This has a southern, almost country feel to it, and is bleak and depressing, although I’ve never managed to play the whole thing through without giving it pretty much my entire focus of attention. The xylophone or whatever is making the tinny bell-like sounds at the end manage to convey either a sense of hope, or at least resigned contentment. I’ve no idea what this song is about (if anything), and I don’t want to spoil it by doing any research to find out.

“East Hastings” is I believe a neighborhood in Vancouver, and the bagpipes that lead into this song, along with the French guy rambling in the background (I guess he’s French – it’s Vancouver anyway) evokes a neighborhood scene, probably along the shoreline among the freighters and seagulls. It’s very dismal and at the same time, serene. At some point the music starts to wander into the picture, dominated by a whining guitar picking out a sad tune, with what I guess is a violin keeping time with the drum in the background. By around the twelfth minute of this there is a kind of crescendo of percussion and guitar, followed by some really creepy – well, I don’t know what they are, but the watery sound and echoing in the background further establishes this as a waterway scene. The whole thing ends up sounding like some air raid sirens with a diving fighter plane coming in for the kill. Plenty here to use your imagination on.

“Providence” is pretty much what I said before, a half-hour of scattered sounds – blustery conversation between strangers (“so says the preacher man, but I don’t go by what he says”), and some lonely strings augmented by drums, horns, guitar, whatever else the guys brought into the studio, building up to a peak and then dropping off into near silence. Then the part I spaced out on – guitars brass and steel and drums working up a frenzied crescendo that gets me doing the air-maestro with conviction every time I hear it.

Fade back to muffled silence, and it all starts over again for another ten minutes or so, building up to a peak once again before fading away in the fog. This alone is worth the price of admission.

Soul-cleansing stuff. Damn brilliant.

So you get the point.

I just love this album, even though it takes some real energy and a certain melancholic mood to really get into, so it’s not something you can (or probably should) play often. By the time Lift Your Skinny Fists… comes around, the group has polished their sound somewhat, and the arrangements are far more predictable than on F# A#. These are great to play as well, as their sophistication can be enjoyed over and over, almost without end.

But this is the first and most endearing of the Godspeed albums so far. Like I said, “Providence” alone is worth the cost of the CD, and “Dead Flag Blues” is probably the most striking introduction of a band since Marillion launched “Market Square Heroes”.

I’d love to give this one five stars – it really is a brilliant piece of work. The only drawback is that this is not an album you’ll play a thousand times – it’s just not quite that accessible. So I’ll settle for four stars for now, although reserve the right to amend this as the mood suits me.


P.S. The mood suited me on August 15th, 2006. Five stars.

F&*king brilliant!

Report this review (#79046)
Posted Monday, May 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Although my horizon in progressive rock music is relatively short and I am, to be sincere, close-minded concerning new artists, new music, new form of movement, acknowledging or thinking of introducing myself to Godspeed You Black Emperor! wasn't the same reticence manner I normally "use". In fact, immediately after I found myself in the perspective of trying them (recommended by a friend of mine), I accepted the thought. That it took some time for the thought to materialize, that's another story. Anyway, everything went for Godspeed entering my collection and my musical universe. And the decisive moment when I realized what a fabulous decision I've made came not after my first Godspeed You Black Emperor! experience, nor in the moment of listening, but right before everything, when I first held it in my hand, ready to play it. For I felt unimaginable shivers. Like solid divine dangerous, even deadly if not carefully handled material is inside it. The engraved name on the side, F#a#∞, terrified me. The image of the cover, slick, slumber, petrified me. The scribbling on the back, a personal shock. I felt its power, its force, and its nature through my rising rhythm of the heart. I looked at it with respect, fear, and will of devotion. But even this spirit(ual) thrill (which, by the way, really happened!; I'm not just playing with words) was nothing caompared to the listening hour, in which I've had so many euforical strokes in so many moments, I can't even remember. I was dead, but my spirit was blistering of emotions and immaterial sensations. The world, the definition of matter was dead and irrelevant, but music was alive, as the pulse was as well. I believe Schopenhauer said that "music is the objectivity of the desire, as immediate as the universe itself."

Godspeed You Black Emperor! defy time and space, weak matter and flawed skin, the sound that ends at a point and the impression that doesn't last long, the earthly "orthodox" dream, the casual flow of things, the conformist mood, the white sky and its God. The Godspeed move is so separate and so special. I'm not foreign from the modern of contemporary times, whether it is a "vintage" artist's work, perpetuated until now, or a new breeze of style and of music contribution. And the definition of modern has several universal way of presentation. Yet I can say that what Godspeed presented, imposed, elaborated and defined is something out of boundaries, something I've rarely seen or experienced. The fact that currently they are the only vision regarding the genre I have can perhaps reflect my words as something exaggerated, but I am almost certain that musically Godspeed you Black Emperor! are something revolutionary, out of dimension and purpose, beyond visualized scenery or a dreamed relation. Because the feeling of this cannot be deceiving or wrong. The feeling of insane euphoria, of divine quality and challenging to the extreme of the word manifestation. The sensation of different, in its most surreal and outstanding form. Godspeed speaks my language. And I adore it.

F#a#∞ is an amazing album (and an amazing debut, of course, making of the Godspeed expression knowledge from the beginning), a refined illustration and a conception that gives you goose bumps. For the universe of this is condensed into the moment of the end of all, an end that's nebulous, extremely subliminal, apocalyptic and heavily clustered. The world is no longer matter, there's only one fragment concentrated, music is everything, music is life and death, but it is music of lament, of shivering cold, of sophisticated slumber, and it's a message of chords that go into shaking the soul and killing the forms of exterior. It's all about signs, about spontaneous effect or long, everlasting echoes, of sadness and of perspective into darkness, of fallen grace in beautiful aromas of shadows, chimeras and immaterial thoughts. It's not the inferno, but the heaven of crows, of fluxes, of spirit that compose ideas. It's not the interpretations of doomsday, but it is the dynamic of something constantly directed towards nothingness. It is an image of a faceless portrait, of elements and outlines that don't belong to the definition we know, we accept, we live with. Metempsychosis. Emphases of shuddering scales. The cover sets a black reverie, suspense moment and a view in the abyssal phenomenon. And the narration engraves and expressive succumbed plane and a distressing scenario. The mood is prepared, maintained, raised and climaxed so fascinating, going shockwave after shockwaves. And then comes the master-music, the three chapters of the passionate dark play. In a sublime, refined, over-ecstatic and self-educated way, the Godspeed crew creates ample interpretation, with magic artistic moves, with understanding towards details and moves and everything that need distinguished reason, with correlations towards a work done for satisfaction, for self-realization and for long name of art written as brand and as motto; the utter sounds- the motive that creates the album's utopia; the manipulated, experimented, conserved sound that reaches towards the highest point possible. And they create the moment of slumber feat and squelched pain; and we look into the eye of the disaster and into the colorless flames of the silent apocalyptic movement. And it's completely marvelous. For they've captured the essence and the spirit; they've reached their message; they've made their way. And the rule is one.and the effects are so many. Infinity here is pure absurdity or pure revelation. Infinity is a single composition that leads into a lack of breath. And the true beyond is the moment of complete silence in Providence. Even that is part of the blood's flow. Even that strikes both the impossible and the reachable. A genuine poem this F#a#∞. An album of emotions, but of staggering quality and precise construction of darkness as well. A work of art that consumes the listener. There is a mood, of course, needed to make out of the experience pure shuddering delight. For this masterliness music is certainly not for anyone's moment of attraction, but a constant communication with the one in settled resonance. What I've expressed in this long paragraph (a special way I prefer in reviewing Godspeed You Black Emperor!) is what I have experienced (general descriptions are of course present, not leaving out the objective critic.). My way of seeing this outstanding F#a#∞. The way.


Report this review (#84358)
Posted Friday, July 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars If I'd begin with this one,it would probably be my favourite.But sorry... Anyway,Infinity traces the pathy,which has lead the band to such masterpieces as Slow Roit and Lift your skinny fists (haven't heard Yanqui U.X.O. yet,but going to).The same moody atmosphere, frightening strings and apocalyptical samples,the voices of angels and the noises right from hell.A musthave for every GYBE and post-rock fan,and just a good album for other Prog genres' admirers - I advice you to begin with either Slow Riot or Lift your skinny fists. The main awesome thing about it is a cover art-work.When I think if GYBEit is the first comes to my mind.The best from the whole post-rock!!! ;-)
Report this review (#93461)
Posted Thursday, October 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A quest unlike any other.

This being my first review of other Godspeed albums to come, I must admit that it is a fairly difficult and daunting process to describe the essence of this band and its legion of followers and imitators. I find this album to be the bands best artistically although not as polished say as Skinny Fists. Be that as it may, there is an undeniable quality about this record, and all of their albums, and its difficult to fully realize as a listener, taking at least three or four unadulterated listens, if not hundreds for the really avid fans out there to truly describe these elaborate pieces.

All of the songs use beginning narration to give a setting to the eventual "story", if you want to call it that, that will unfold in the song. I also believe their is a unique dualism of the disparaging quality of some of the narrations and some of the uplifting qualities of the music itself.

Dead Flag Blues begins with a narrator who has given up hope. We are brought into passages without sensible form or structure. The passages move gracefully and fully as one holistic body. It is not as extensively played out as I would have liked (even at 17 minutes) but overall is a solid piece.

East Hastings is my least favorite track here, and also the most abysmal/hopeless sounding track. Much of the middle I am disenchanted with and it's the one track that seemingly "goes nowhere" while still taking me on a quasi-ride/experiment. The end with the fall of fighter planes is very surreal and perhaps the best aspect of the track, providing added visualization and even terror for some.

Providence is my favorite Godspeed track in their catalog, and the highlight of this album. I also think it adequately sums up a majority of the Post-Rock movement. Simplicities built upon by atmospheric passages until we reach a crescendo of sound. Here, the violin plays a critical role in being a "lead instrument" without really leading. It serves to accent the build of sound created by the other instruments, and to great effect. The result is something inspirational and rarely found in music.

This is a patient record. Do not listen to this unless you have the due time to give it the respect it deserves. Admittedly, I was extremely turned off by this band at first, even under the proper conditions. However, through multiple listens, sometimes forced, I was able to find the beauty that so many other listeners had described and found and was quite touched by the material.

F#A# infinity - a highlight of the post-rock movement and a record deserving of the accolades it has been bestowed.

Report this review (#101759)
Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Appealing, disturbing, revolutionary, a work of supreme sensibility! This album is a mark of a new era for post-rock, the band brilliantly made a post-rock opus, combining to their inspirated post-rock structures traces of symphonic music and disturbing ambiences. The result is 3 movements full of feelings, in a desperate appeal, as the world would end at any moment. It is a cathartic scream, it invokes the extremes of the human sphere of action!

As the violin enters in "The Dead Flag Blues" and hits through the spine, we're already hyptotized, terrified by the obscure, conspicuous ambience of the intro, as we listen "We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine... and the machine is bleeding to death". This metaphor is perfect to describe what this album wants to transmit. "i said: kiss me, you're beautiful - these are truly the last days". Song 2 "East Hastings", which was used in the movie "28 Days Later" (terrific, by the way), continues the saga of expressionism, with the simple but beautiful guitar line envolved by the disturbing ambience giving a sensation of fear, loneliness, powerless. It was used on the movie in the part the main character discovers a completely empty London, as the film shows several minutes of his discover through the empty streets and buildings. The last track is compelled with several movements of pure magic, very touching in very different ways, a bit more energetic and joyfull, as if it was showing that it is still possible to change the world.

At the end of the century, Godspeed You! Black Emperor showed the evolution of rock music, the expressionism at its peak, a remarkable work. The world has not seen for years such a original piece of music, capable of transmitting a recondite feeling - the sum of art. Completely and undoubtfully, masterpiece!

Report this review (#103698)
Posted Tuesday, December 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's great. Simply a great album. I don't know how such strange music, without even a melody can be interresting, but it is. GYBE!'s music is more like a strange soundtrack of a psychedelic, melancholic movie, than a traditional prog. It is even completely different than any other post-rock music. But be aware: this is not Genesis, Pink Floyd, Rush, or any other classic prog. This is GYBE! and not everyone will going to like it. There are no vocals, no solos, not even a drum section in a traditional way. There are a lot of noises, creating strange soundscapes. It also reminds me a post-apocalyptic computer game - Fallout, so if you liked that climate, try and check F# A# ∞. If you didn't - also try it.
Report this review (#110143)
Posted Thursday, February 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sometimes it happens that, when you listen to an album, you stop existing and you're sucked into another world. For me F#A#oo is such an album.

The album opens with a low voice reciting a dark poem which conjures up images of destruction and armageddon. The rest of the album is mostly instrumental, and follows the same mood set up by the introductory poem. The only really uplifting part is the outro to "The Dead Flag Blues" with violin and glockenspiel and it could trick you into thinking you're waking up from the bad dream that is the rest of the song. If you continiue listening to the rest of the album, however, you realise that part WAS the dream itself, and the darkness is everywhere, (almost like that part in Matrix: Revolutions, where Trinity sees the sky for the first time ever) drowning you in its void.

Most will say that "Lift your skinny first like antennas to heaven" is GY!BE's masterpiece, and they're probably right. It is a lot more polished, while F#A#oo has a much more raw and jagged feel to it. The sound is almost hollow and echoing, and there are parts which i really could have done without (i don't always listen to the ending from eas hastings, and there is a part in Providence which is just silence for 4 minutes before the last climax, and i've always wondered about that). While it is nowhere near flawless, and "Lift your skinny fists..." is certainly more accomplished musically, this is the one that i prefer.

It lacks the direction ("where are we going?") that other post-rock albums such as "Lift your skinny fists.." or "Takk.." may have, but it doesn't matter to me, as this is an album you shuld just feel without thinking about purpose or direction.

Report this review (#111515)
Posted Saturday, February 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Not what I expected

I was told this band was really good and that I should check them out. I did not know what post rock sounded like. I continued into my prolonged muse on what I thought of this but the music broke the concentration. It made me listen to the album without trying to form an opinion. It required my full attention.

"The Dead Flag Blues". First of all it scared me. Then I agreed with it totally ("the government is corrupt") it was all good until "the machine is bleeding to death". I couldn't help laughing for 5 minutes no matter how serious and melancholy it is supposed to sound. That line killed the song for me. Well for the first listen at least.

Soon I came back to this album trying to figure out the song. I listened intently and made sure I paid attention. It just clicked. Like a belt buckle. Click. The guitar fit in with the other stringed instruments, such as violin and cello. It still is a new experience to me and I listen intently with solemn ears to this song. The emotion poured out and I felt the mood well up inside me. I couldn't help but feel the darkness that the poem portrays. The end of the world. My outlook on life changed for those 16 minutes. It struck me as odd that I am so affected by this music. The stringed instruments meld together to make a wall of helpless feelings that sends you into a trance. The guitar echoes within the mind as you are dragged into the world the musicians create. Chaos. Darkness. Despair. 12 minutes into the song the drums come in and the music "speeds up" but in this case it comes together and does not let notes ring as much. The violin lifts the moods with the bright sounding notes. It brings you higher, and higher, and higher until..the song ends. It just ends.

"East Hasting" starts out with voices talking. I don't know what about, I cannot begin to distract my mind from the music. The music takes you places, but without direction. The hopelessness creeps into your soul once again as the guitar comes in with those few notes. The tension builds inside you with no end as the mind imagines all the destruction and emptiness that the world offers on a silver platter. Then it grows on you as the drums come in. My mind begins to scream for release as the apprehension does not stop. The violin seems to relieve the insanity of it all but soon that too turns on you and darkens the mood. The music messes with my mind, taking me places I never knew existed. The dark corners of my mind suddenly get the attention that they have been longing for. I sit here in a trance, mesmerized by the sounds coming out of the speakers. The world around me is ignored as the sheer brilliance of it all grabs me by the collar of the shirt and yells at me to wake up and see the world around me in a new perspective. Tension increases. Heart beats faster. And faster. Temples pounding. Hyperventilating starts. I cannot begin to fathom the things forming in my mind. Suddenly the music stops, slowly. Then ambient noises begin to twist the emotions that were once ever present in my mind. The last minute of the song does nothing to relieve the anguish in my mind.

"Providence" starts. More voices come. Talking about the end of the world. And the "preacher-man". A pattern of noise comes out of this and creates the background music to the pandemonium in the mind. It ceases. The violin comes in and again brings emotion to further distress the peace that you were trying to form in your mind. Minutes pass. Time has no power in this world created by the music. Soon you begin to notice the bass thumping away and the guitar playing some melody. The drums enhance this seemingly religious trance you seem to be going through. The music builds and builds. Then it seemingly disappears. You have no time to think when it comes back in and adds further confusion to your every thought and emotion. When you look at the clock you soon realise the song has only just begun. Silence. Followed by voices. The guitar comes in to add stability to your mind. Soon all seems all right. This melody adds peace and tranquillity to the chaos it once created. But a new kind of peace. A mellow, short lived peace. It rises and rises to heights never imagined. A voice calls out "Where are you going?", where are you going. My mind calls out but no answer. Soon more ambient noises begin to filter through the speakers. Then silence. For four minutes. This has a bunch of reactions. First reaction: I did not know there was silence I was trying to settle the thoughts still dwelling in my mind. Second reaction: I noticed the silence and was confused by it. Third reaction: The silence had my full attention. Fourth reaction: I counted the four minutes to the last second. Fifth reaction: I skipped this part and then felt bad and restarted the song and came up to the four minutes of silence and let my mind wander. It starts up again. The silence builds up a tension that you didn't know existed until the music kicks in again. The guitar seems to sum up the song with its ever repeating riff. IT builds up and the drums kick it into overdrive. Then it releases you from its grasp and the apprehension and toil of the mind for the past hour seems to vanish. That is until you decide to listen to the album again.

This is a really good album. It messed with my mind that has yet to be reproduced. The dark mood sends chills down my spine. The musicianship is brilliant. It is put together superbly. But the one thing that gets me is the silence for four minutes. I'll never understand it. 4/5 stars for this well orchestrated debut for the Canadian post rock band Godspeed You Black Emperor.

Report this review (#112731)
Posted Monday, February 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Now for something completely different. This could well have been said about this record when it came out in 1997, and how many albums could you really make that statement about ? There is no singing in this dark and melancholic work. It is made up of slowly building soundscapes with the subject matter being very apocalyptic.There is a lot of repetition (like a lot of Krautrock) and sampling, and not as many uplifting, breakout moments like on "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven" that helps make that one a masterpiece.

"The Dead Flag Blues" opens with apocalyptic words,and the scene is bleak indeed.The violins come in as it gets quite emotional. Guitars come in and slowly build. Spoken words again 6 minutes in.There is a sample of a train leaving followed by experimental, spooky noises. Some gentle guitar 11 minutes in along with drums as the melody builds to a full sound. It softens before the song ends. "East Hastings" opens with a man preaching on the street accompanied with bagpipes. It gets quiet, too quiet, and very atmospheric. After 6 minutes the sound increases slightly with a cool guitar melody 7 minutes in with drums. It stops as violin comes in.The song speeds up and the sound builds 11 minutes in, were cooking now ! It ends after a minute as samples help create a dark and atmospheric sound with weird noises.

"Providence" is the longest tune by far on the record. Opening with samples of a conversation about the end of the world and the desperate times they are in.The sound slowly pulsates as violin and eventually drums dominate 8 minutes in. Guitars come in at 9 minutes as drums continue creating a great sound ! It stops as processed vocals come in as a drum, violin and guitar melody follows and it builds. It stops as the soundscape gets very atmospheric as different sounds come in that again build. There is about 4 minutes of silence that is followed by the most aggressive passage on the record. Amazing !

In many ways Post-Rock seems to me like a modern interpretation of Krautrock. And I know there are a lot of critics of both genres, with often the same complaints as well. You know the criticism, "It's boring, repetetive and lacks focus" and on and on. Well all I know is that these genre's offer us a lot of brilliant improvisation, as well as records that are truly a listening experience.

Report this review (#114225)
Posted Sunday, March 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A Soundtrack For The End of The World

"We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death". Those are the first words you hear as Godspeed You Black Emperor's F#A#oo begins to play. A low, quiet, droning sound is heard as an aged man reminisces about the end of times. Immediately, the listener becomes aware that this is no ordinary album. It instantly comes off as being extremely dark and depressing, but at the same time it grabs you with a sense of eery curiosity. Although words like "dark" and "grim" may set off a death metal precognition, that would be false. These sounds are smooth and elegant, not the least bit offensive as a raging metal power chord. Think of a slow, droning air raid siren off in the distance on a cloudy day to get the feel of the "dark" sounds present in F#A#oo.

And those sounds fit perfectly with the style of this album. Unlike conventional rock or pop music, this album has more in common with classical music. Each of the three songs on F#A#oo is over 15 minutes long. Each song could subsequently be broken down into multiple movements, almost like a symphony. The band has over 10 members and lots of instruments at their disposal (everything from violins and brass to guitars). The resulting sounds are varied but minimalist in nature. But because of the obvious departure from conventional bands this album can and will be a complete turn off to most first time listeners. While I may have a hard time convincing people with bad first impressions for whatever reason they may have, I can try to let them know what makes this album such a gem. Anyone who is willing to push aside any initial qualms with F#A#oo will certainly appreciate it. The first track is titled "The Dead Flag Blues" and seems to float around theme present in the monologue spoken at the start of the album. There are no lyrics in F#A#oo, only spoken words. After nearly nine minutes the music seems to have gone no where. Just airy, grim, chords and a faint high pitched fluttering of a guitar string acts as the build to the main theme which begins about 10 minutes in. There's no melody present in these first nine minutes, just the sounds of instruments emulating what you could perceive as environmental sounds. As if you were standing in open barren landscape with a cold wind blowing over dark skies.

One might be quick to lash out that that could be nine minutes of filler but they would be mistaken. Those nine minutes set the scene. Those sounds swirl around in your mind and put you in the mood of the song. The artists then takes that and very very slowly speeds it up, adds a few notes here or there. Over that time, almost without notice, the music is rising in tension and building up. Eventually you become aware of the build up and the song will explode into a melody or a solo which in time tapers back off into barely nothing, all while remaining elegant and smooth.

The music never gets technical and doesn't display any sort of virtuosic instrument playing by any means, but It's these moments that make F#A#oo so great and memorable. Not only do the artists craft sound-scapes that can truly get the listener thinking, they do so with a certain elegance that's present because their minimalist approach. They're able to make sounds on their instrument that anyone can produce, but they craft them into situations that leave the listener thinking, "How could they possibly know to put that violin note with that trumpet sound? They fit perfectly together."

Like a movie, F#A#oo is best if experienced in long sessions. The whole thing could very well be listened through in one sitting, and that's not so hard because it's possible to get sucked into not want to come back out. This music leaves a lasting impression on the listener. The textures and production quality easily hypnotizes and keeps the listener enthralled as the songs progress. By the end of it all you're bound to leave with a deep melancholy feeling of lose. It's rare to come across such music that can hit all the right notes to trigger a response within the listener, and F#A#oo will have you in a different state of mind when the final sounds taper off. And while F#A#oo can easily be one of the most morbid, dark, and sad pieces ever written, that's also why it leaves such a lasting impression that sets it above a lot of music. Sometimes the saddest music is also the most beautiful.

All in all, F#A#oo is quite possibly one of the most thought inducing CDs I've ever heard. The apocalyptic sound-scapes almost instantly bring to mind scenes of devastation and barren, desolate landscapes. This runs through your mind the entire album which leads to a movie-like experience. To me, one of the greatest qualities that make up good music is the ability to move you and to transport you to another place and F#A#oo succeeds at doing this perfectly. The long track times and drawn out build ups may not be for everyone, but for us who are willing to look into something different for a change will be pleasantly surprised. Everyone should at least give this album a shot and experience some of the most thought provoking music ever.

Report this review (#116226)
Posted Friday, March 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album seems to get very positive feedback from the members of ProgArchives, and it should. Here we have the first output from one of music's most pivotal bands, and it showcases the early stages of their unique expermiental fusion. In these three tracks you'll hear everything the bands has become acclaimed for: lush atmospheres, sometimes beautiful, sometimes creepy, long crescendos ultimately leading to an entrancing climax, and noises/odd audio clips. The tracks perhaps come off as a bit choppy and inconsistent to the new listener. This is due to the way in which the album was recorded and put together. The group originally recorded a 40-minute album (two vinyl sides, each one piece), but when the Kranky label offered to produce and sell it on CD, the band went back to the studio to record a little more material and put it on the final version of the album. Pieces from the original were moved around a little and the new music was incoporated to make three tracks, and 60 minutes of material. Still, the listener that let's the band do their thing and just listens to the album will get sucked into the apocalyptic sounds and atmospheres emitted and life will never be the same. Something like that. It's just a brilliant record.
Report this review (#116379)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Unlike the majoraty of people on this site GYBE!/GY!BE was not the first post rock band I had heard. By the time I got around to purchasing F# A# (infinity) I was already a fan of EITS, 65days, Sigur Ros and Mono (and many more not on this site), and so I think that I am able to make a somewhate objective opinion of this band and this record, and I think it is THE most important recording in the genre because they took the sound that was laid out by Tortoise, Cul De Sac, Talk Talk etc. and expanded it into a bigger sound and laying the foundations for most of todays bands.

Compared to most godspeed albums this one sounds fresh. The buildup- crescendo formula was not as established at the time, allowing for a higher variety of song formats.

The Dead Flag blues is a beautifull peice, starting off with some great spoken word narration that sets the mood fore evrything that would follow it not just in this song or record but in GYBE!'s whole career. "the car is on fire, and there is no driver at the wheel, and the suers are all muddied by a thousand lonly suicides, and a cold wind blows" it chills me to the bone evry time I hear it and I feel that I am being transported into some magical far off place, that sadly has been ruined by industry and the evils of captialism and turned into a giant distopic city. I then Take a train ride with GYBE! to the next spot in the song, in the city where I am quickly lost both musically and conceptually, but I think that is the point.

East Hastings is an elegant peice starting with bagpipes and some christian religious speach (listen closly and you can hear "jesus christ" and "spread the word") after the bagpipes fade out we are introduced to some Pink Floyd style spacey keyboards and then silence, following this it goes into a more traditional sounding post rock piece that builds up extremly slowly to the crescendo and then we get some amazing strings building up again. At the end of the song we get a lot of crazy static, it brings to mind the first part of the song for some reason even though they dont sound particuraly simmilar on their own. This is probably GYBE!'s best song, and that is saying a lot.

Providence begins with a man warning a woman that she is in a bad part of town, and then explaining that he dosent trust the preacher who says its the end of the world. That man sounds just like a lot of people I know with that half hidden despair in his voice. what follows the speach is an amazing soundscape that seems to bring you in closer connection with the man, I think that this song is about him, though the next part feels more like it might be about the "preacher man" the the soundscapes in this song are incredible, even giving Tangerine Dream a run for their money.

5 stars This is THE essential post rock piece and should be lisened to by evry prog fan and owned by every post rock fan worth his socks. This record and band defined post rock so much that more often than naught people wont even consider a band to be post rock if they dont have a crescendo even though the early bands in the genre didnt for the most part use them.

Report this review (#126946)
Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I run into Godspeed when I was looking for some sort of relaxing, not too heavy music or just call it a break from (prog) metal. Anyway, this is the first Godspeed album that I got and also an introduction for me to post-rock. Basically, this is an instrumental album that has a very dark and quite depressing atmosphere; listening to this album while you’re already depressed is not really recommended, it’s likely you’ll become more depressed and even worse…isolated. Well, not to scare you or anything, but this album really does have such a great atmosphere that while you’re listening to it you could get…absorbed into it. From the first track ‘The Dead Flag Blues’, you’ll get carried into the some sort of a bleak place with the captivating intro. The monologue at the intro part makes this track seems like an opening scene of a movie, and that makes this album is more like a film soundtrack (a reviewer stated that this album is like a soundtrack for the end of the world, which I actually quite agree with). I especially like the ending of this song, it’s somehow gives you a pleasant feeling; like a little of peace in the middle of this dark world.

Moving on to the next track, ‘East Hasting’, you’ll hear some sort of someone’s preaching (I believe he’s preaching since I can hear words like salvation, hallelujah, and else) in the middle of the street, with a sound of bagpipe playing along, a great intro! The song then continues with some great passages, which featuring guitar, bass, drum, violins, etc. It’s getting really interesting when the tempo starts pacing up around the halfway through the song for a while and then you’ll return to ‘emptiness’, not silence, only some sort of ambience. The last track, ‘Providence’, is probably the most interesting songs here, and it’s not really an exaggeration to say it’s the best song in this album. Listen to the great ensembles works, especially through the first half of the song, which is really…captivating, and also absorbing. Near the end there’s a short silence before the music starts again and close the album. I’ve heard a longer silence before therefore it’s not really bothering me, just consider it as some sort of silence before a hidden track and that little bit of problem (if there were any) would surely go away.

Overall, this is a great album. Although at the first listening it didn’t hooked up with me instantly, after a few listening I can appreciate this album more and more. The monologue, dialogue and other non-music sounds that at first I thought ruining the album a bit, nowadays sounds to me like something that makes the album unique, and thus adding an extra point to the greatness of the album. It’s not a masterpiece in my book, but still, a great album. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#133009)
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I haven't written a review in ages, so I thought an album from a genre I still couldn't get into would be a good place to start doing it again. Maybe time would finally show me what's so wonderful about albums like this.

But time hasn't changed my views. GY!BE's music still can't reach my heart, and my mind for that matter. What I used to think, I still do; what I used to admire in this group's music, I still do; what I dislike in post-rock, I still do.

The album, in short (why would I take hours of my -and your- time trying to explain something that, it seems, may be better explained by others who understand this genre?) is a good showcase of the band's strengths and -in my opinion- weaknesses. The musicians are very competent, and very able to create lush arrangements and broad, panoramic soundscapes that stretch beyond the borders of regular song structures and album maps. One can't deny that the players here know their craft, and, yes, that they are really feeling what they're playing. Musical-honesty oozes through this disc, making it impossible to accuse GY!BE of trying to adapt themselves to the times or of sacrificing their values and ideas in favor of what's commercially viable. The band is good, I give you that.

Sadly, that's not enough for me (and I seem to be a minority here). What this band loves is to create a theme (usually a simple theme) and develop it till exhaustion. Wait, that's quite wrong. They don't properly develop the musical themes, but they just repeat them till exhaustion. Yes, that's a better way of saying it. These canadians are very skillful when it comes to dynamics, that's an absolute truth, for they know how to take an idea, keep playing it over and over again just adding small harmonic touches or instrumental details till the volume, the musical intensity reaches a high point, and then they can start doing it again. But that's not enough for me. I'm not a big fan of listening a few scarce ideas during the course of a whole album, only changed in ways of intensity. It may show subtlety, it may show finesse, hell, it may show the mark of musical genius! The thing is, I don't like it.

And as I was praising the guys in GY!BE for their musical honesty, I think I should do the same in terms of my review and the rating I give to this band's album. Unpopular rating? For sure. Honest? Even more. I can't give this a high rating just for the rest of the community to agree with me. That would be falling in the same category that many prog fans accuse many artists of falling into: that would be selling out.

But let me at least rationalize my rating, so that the apostles of modern music can understand why I give this album the rating I give.

- This is NOT ESSENTIAL nor a masterpiece of progressive music. Saying that would be a lie (in my opinion). - This is NOT AN EXCELLENT ADDITION to any prog music collection, as I think there are plenty of albums that should go first. - As I'm the one writing, it's also false that it is GOOD. For me, as I've said earlier, it's NOT. - But this is also NOT POOR. As I mentioned, musicianship and musical integrity exists, and original ideas do exist in this album. For an album to be truly poor, it has to be devoid of all of these.

So, this is the perfect example of an album that's ideal for fans, collectors of the genre, as it really encapsulates everything you love -hate- of this new wave in the progressive rock movement.

Recommended for: Fans. You'll love it.

Not recommended for: Whoever doesn't like Post-rock...this won't change your opinion...

...This may be actually very, very good. I just don't like it.

Report this review (#134342)
Posted Wednesday, August 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Post-Rock is one of my favorite branches of progressive.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor is really in their own little world. I have the cd version of F#A#∞, so there are three very long compositions, and all three of them are exceptional.

This is one of the darkest albums i've ever heard in my life. I view this album as a soundtrack to the apocalypse. Desolate lands and deserted cities fill the songs, the corporate takeover lead to the apocalypse (as hinted at in the opening poem in The Dead Flag Blues, which is sure to give you chills for hours when you think about it)

The final composition, Providence is my favorite, its epic in scale and musicially impressive

About Godspeed's music, its symphonic, but subtly so. Build ups from the simplest violin to an enitre orchestra give the high-points of the compositions power like no other band that is similar could ever pull off.

Incredible album, but be warned, this is not happy music.

Report this review (#142395)
Posted Saturday, October 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have always thought that great music captures the listener, surrounds them and takes control of them emotionally or intellectually or both. It is this combination which for me at least epitomizes the best in progressive music.

The vision here is bleak, post apocalyptic and yet from the outset there is beauty. There is an understated and relaxed approach which reminded me of the sorrowful style of the Cowboy Junkies. However, GYBE do not conform to strict musical formula. By no means, samples, barren soundscapes, abound. There is narration and conversation.

For me, Providence stands out as the best example of all the facets of the album. The doleful strings are memorable (it's not the rumbling basses of Gorecki's 3rd) but the vision is similar. The piece moves from throttled tapped chords and harmonics to milataristic snares with an almost mandolin like folk style which end in almost total deconstruction: a barren and alien soundscape terrifyingly beautiful. Then silence before haunting echoed keyboards and guitar restore a more positive sensibility.

Report this review (#146953)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Godspeed You Black Emperor! (I like punctuating it that way I don't care how the band does it) is a band that immediately interested me. This might sound weird, as many have said that this is a band that is hard to get into, but by the time I found out about this band, I was already in the mindset to understand this kind of thing. The music on this album is very visual and sure, it conjures images of a post-apocalyptic world and I thought it was the greatest thing ever at first, but the more I listened to it, the less vivid the images became. I think this is because there is very little real substance to the music here and the concepts are extremely vague. The reason people think it is so deep is because of the attatchments they make between dynamics and eeire soundscapes (not to mention the vague spoken word parts). To enjoy this music to it's maximum potential requires a suspension of disbelief, and I think people who are willing and let the connections their minds will make and vague images flow are able to enjoy this album more than those who think about it too much. At first I was able to do this, but eventually I only heard the dynamics and instrumentation, the images and connections were gone. I think the band is partially to blame for this because of the lack of real substance in their music, but the listener can make this music very powerful if he or she is in the right mindset. I now am sometimes able to get in that mindset, but often I can only hear the music itself and not picture anything but vague irrelevant slivers of images forced by my will to enjoy the music like I used to. Add one star if you are able to have that mindset, subtract one if you aren't. Right now, I'm somewhere in between.
Report this review (#151779)
Posted Monday, November 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Godspeed was my first introduction to this crazy genre of "post-rock" and they, to this day, remain at the topThis is truly some of the most hauntingly beautiful music i have ever listened to. The gorgeous yet thunderous buildups, delicate guitar, the apocalyptic monologues, and beautiful melodies, this is incredible stuff and unlike anything you've listened to before. .This is the soundtrack to the end of the world. It is bleak, desolate, disturbing, and full of despair. The introduction to Dead Flag Blues sets the mood for the rest of the album and what a mood it is, arguably the most depressing lyrics i have ever listened to. "We are 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 learing, and the flags are dead, at the top of their polls. . . " I adore the lyrics to this song, the pure poetry of the monologue. (after the strings fall away) "we woke up one morning, and fell a little further down, for sure its valley of death. . ." I went through a phase a little while back where this song was all that i listened too and that speech has inspired some of my favorite paintings. Providence Is one of my favorites from GS!YBE's catalogand contains some of the bands most inspired work. Monolithic, epic buildup fade into wandering pieces of music with mysterious echoed voices; monstrous crescendos come crashing down into ethereal passages of strings and plucked guitars. Godspeed you! Black Emperor is the face of Post rock for a reason- they do it best. This is truly an epic disc of inspired and inspiring music. not as good as their future releases because of East Hastings, but Highly, highly recomended anyways. 4.5 stars
Report this review (#154949)
Posted Monday, December 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This debut album from the Canadian post-rock outfit is so titled because on the original l.p. the first side started with f sharp, the second with a sharp, and there was a locked groove at the end that would go on forever. I found that rather interesting, much like the music at hand. The first song, The Dead Flag Blues, is one of the most depressing things I have ever heard. It starts off with a monologue, which unlike most monologues, just adds to the song where in most instances it just gets cheesy. Slowly, instrumentation comes in and builds up to epic climaxes. The songs do tend to follow that formula of protracted crescendos but it doesn't really get old, as it's not very predictable, it's just how the band works. East Hastings is probably my favourite song by this band at the time, and it contains some moments that I would even venture to describe as heavy, not something usually found in this type of band. Providence has some spoken word samples from a preacher preaching the coming apocalypse on the streets of Providence, Rhode Island. The band makes use of these spoken samples throughout the album, and they add an interesting element to the music. I wouldn't say this is quite a masterpiece, but it's an excellent piece of music nonetheless. If you already are a fan of the band, I'm sure you'll like it, and if not I recommend it, but you need to have a certain amount of patience to listen to get through it, as the songs are all very long and minimalistic in nature, and many people might find that boring.
Report this review (#159442)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars my first experience of GS!BE. From the epic opening monologue about goverment corruption and the end times to the contrasting songs about pro and anti christian theology this album is about everything and nothing. time and space. perfectly crafted debut full length that is flawless in its instrumental prowess. not since stravinsky's best days have we seen such beautiful orchestration.
Report this review (#161915)
Posted Saturday, February 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Godspeed you black emperor is a hard band to get into. It took me several months, and finally, I feel confident enough to write a review on the magnificent album. First I should say that the album, is the bleakest, and most ambient of their three and a half albums, but it's my favorite. In lift your skinny fists, they get a little too straight forward, and in Yangui there just seems to be a lack of the pure desolation that they try to find that's already on this album. F# A infinity is absolutely pivotal in your post rock growth, and not owning the album is practically a crime if you're into the genre.

As you may may already know, this band mostly composes lengthy pieces between fifteen and twenty five minutes long, very occasionally going above or below that limit. This album is no exception, with only three songs, and clocking in at sixty three minutes long, Godspeed you! black emperor is giving Yes a run for their money. The song Dead flag blues is an extremely bleak track, framed around a short monologue at the beginning of the song talking about the destruction of America, corrupt governments, suicides, the works. And the rest of the song just flows through this atmosphere of depression, leaving you extremely... depressed. The next song East Hastings was featured on the movie 28 days later, and though I cant really say it fit in too well, the song is probably my favorite in the Godspeed catalogue. With the swelling of the epic climax, to the dark ambiance afterwords, a song you cant miss. The third song Providence, is built in typical Godspeed fashion, but with a longer time (twenty nine minutes) more time is given to climax, to create the dark/depressing atmosphere, and to portray some truly eerie vibes.

Another reason why this is my favorite album by the group is because the strings are basically as prominent as the guitars. While in the other albums, they're a bit more uneven (especially Lift your skinny fists). Extremely sad strings glide over the softer parts, while completely untampered with guitars make beautiful harmonies to contrast, and as the build up begins, the arpeggios become more faster and aggressive, while the strings start to crescendo and start moving in a chord progression rather than just droning. The climax will come while the EITS like drummer pounds away at the snare, and everything starts coming together, in a hurricane of noise, that becomes so intense at points that really all you can call it is noise. This only lasts for minute or two, or even less, before the crash is hit, the guitars suddenly stop, the strings come to a desperate crawl, and ambiance sets in to drift to the end of the song. This trend is basically on followed in the latter two songs. The first song, Dead flag blues, is a song that is in a constant motion, or ebb and flow, as guitars drop to strings, strings drop to ambiance, ambiance rises to guitars, and guitars drop to strings. This song is basically what sets the tone for the album...

...Melancholia, the factor that gives ninety percent of what post rock is made of. Bleak, unforgiving melancholia, a force to be reckoned with, a mood that hasn't been written in the stones of progressive music until this album was made. Sure Universe Zero may have contributed, hell even influenced it, but I do believe this band, and in particular, this album, brought the depressing side of music to post rock, and maybe even prog rock, and for that I am very grateful. Therefore, I give this album, with no hesitation Five stars.

Report this review (#162599)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Well this is pretty different from what I usually listen to. Godspeed You Black Emperor! make soundcollages or ambient soundscapes if you will. Their sound include samples, strings and slow building songs that ends in different climaxes throughout the songs. There are almost no vocals here on Godspeed You Black Emperor!`s debut album so the excitement is up to the slow building post rock notes.

The Dead Flag Blues starts really good with an apocalyptic sample which sets the mood for the rest of that song. It´s hard to call this a song though as this is more sounds mixed together to make a whole. It´s a pretty ambient song IMO.

East Hastings is a bit more exciting to me that The Dead Flag Blues. Again it starts with a sample and then sounds for a couple of minutes until the guitar starts and for the first time on this album there is something which vaguely reminds me of normal song structure. The drums then comes in an the repetitive riff builds slowly to a climax. This part of the song is where I finally find something that excites me just a bit. It´s actually a very melodic section. The songs ends with more minutes of noise.

Providence starts like the two other songs with a sample and this song also have different climaxes that are build up from almost nothing. This is almost 30 minutes long but never gets boring. There are lots of different sections and soundscapes.

The musicians seem competent but the playing is very minimalistic most of the time and subtle playing seems to be prefered here as opposed to dynamically louder parts. When it is most intense there some good energy in the songs but most of the time they just drag along in a slow tempo.

The sound quality is excellent and it makes the music sound much more exciting than it really is. At least this is how I feel.

The composition quality is high throughout the album the problem for me is I don´t really like the style. I find it too minimalistic and when things get going it is too repetitive. It´s not like the music is boring though, lots of things happen. If you like music that is slow building with intense climaxes this post rock album might be for you. Personally I only think this deserves 2 stars though. I´m having a hard time enjoying the slow and minimalistic songs. It´s very progressive and innovative though.

Report this review (#165160)
Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F#A# (infinity) 5 stars

The soundtrack to the apocalypse.

On this album, you can find some of the most tear jerking and emotional moving touches in music. That bill is brought out by a diverse instruments and exotic use of instrumentation. This band can even be considered a small orchestra, as many people do. This record is fully instrumental sans the dialogue sampling contained in the beginning of each of the three epic pieces.

Pertaining much too classical structures, each of the pieces can be broken down into movements, each having their elaborate purpose to serve the overall tone to the piece itself. There is also a lot of free-time and space left in the middle. This opens that gateway for lush ambience and prolonged silences, all to fit the greater mood which is complete darkness. There is absolutely no happiness to be found anywhere in this album. Some of the subjects the album deals with are war, violence and poverty. This band aims their ideals at America, which is kind of strange since they're Canadian.

What sets Godspeed You! Black Emperor above the rest in their genre pool is such simple things that they add into their music like their dynamics, crescendos/decrescendos, bends and feeling. All these things don't take practice or proficiency in ones instrument, but just the emotion that one wants to put into setting or building up to a peak and letting everything fall out into abrupt chaos.

The dialogue samples add a picture to the music, I can easily view what the person speaking and the music is trying to portray. This band is cinematic.

This album is one of a kind to me. I can't think of any other band that can get a message across like this. Don't expect a typical rap against government crap like Rage against the Machine; these are guys that aim of the societal problem in America.

Report this review (#173312)
Posted Sunday, June 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yes, this is a good one. GYBE! is definitely the definitive band for orchestral-style post rock, and perhaps post rock in general. But, I feel like F#A#oO is weaker than its reputation would have us believe. The songs do not flow as well as those on Lift Yr Skinny Fists; though there are all-time Godspeed You Black Emperor high points on the album, the songs themselves can seem like skeletons with only the vital parts entirely fleshed out (pffft!). Some may get a kind of redeeming value out of extended no-sound silences between sections of songs, especially the latter Providence, but this kind of format was done better on Lift Yr Skinny Fists and Slow Riot to New Zero Kanada. I will give Godspeed deserved credit, though: they have managed to create one of the most desolate, bleak, and dark records I can think of. Perhaps only a few acts like Univers Zero or Lustmord can come close, but for a fairly popular band like Godspeed, it deserves recognition. Of course, the downside to that is that F#A#oO can be a niche album to a lot of people, serving only too take one to a dark state of mind and perversely comfort him in that state of mind. That coupled with the length of the songs makes the album get low on my imaginary music-listening priority list.

The juicy moments to be found on this album come courtesy of the melancholy string section usually, which add a tinge of perverse beauty to the proceedings, notably on the first song, Dead Flag Blues. After a brief monologue, the likes of which occur throughout Godspeed and A Silver Mt Zion's career, sets the tone of death and decay for the album, the string section delivers a sad eulogy as our speaker goes into a grim description of the aftermath of am undefined disaster, afterward delving into random lines that fit the mood of the music as well as add to it with likewise melancholy. This bit may take you by surprise and you may shed a tear before catching yourself. It's intense stuff. The Dead Flag Blues is a rather subdued song, but East Hastings and Providence have more energy, but it is tense energy, never exultant. A section of East Hastings was used to set the tone for the scene in 28 Days Later, when the protagonist wakes up to a dead London, devoid of people. How fitting, and for the album as a whole, too.

Report this review (#179318)
Posted Saturday, August 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A very polished effort from a fine band. Although not as sophisticated as Lift Your Skinny Fists......, F#A# shows subtle uses of thematic illustrations to evoke atmospheres especially between songs or at the beginning. A bit similar to Pink Floyd using scenes to depict atmospheres from Wish You Were Here onwards. There is a minimalist approach on this 1997 release requiring a patient listener to slowly build into the emotions. The Dead Flag Blues is a real slow burner and certainly the most superior track on the album. That is not taking anything away from Providence which paved the way for more similar climactic soundscapes from follow up releases. Lots of spoken words as with later releases which reminds one of listening to some rants from some obscure cult! Three and a half stars for a good solid album.
Report this review (#188473)
Posted Saturday, November 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
1 stars I'm a huge fan of electronic and ambient music, so the idea of an album being filled entirely with soundscapes isn't a problem for me at all. I hardly ever pull this album out, and now I remember why.

1. Dead Flag Blues- Boring. The freaking song takes forever to build up. The vocals are disturbing. I can appreciate what they're trying to paint here, but it's REALLY not my thing. Maybe I'll listen to it once every couple years out of curiosity, but... I've tried listening to this more than a few times but it doesn't do much for me. 2/10

2. East Hastings- Man, this one's even worse! This is way too uneventful for my tastes. The drums are... bad. The instruments themselves aren't bad; everything simply takes way too much time to develop. And does it really go anywhere? Doesn't seem like it to me and this hardly keeps my attention. Do NOT listen to this expecting to concentrate fully on it. 1/10

3. Providence- How could this delve even more into bland songwriting? This is definitely the worst track. The song doesn't get any better at developing ideas and some just come across as annoying, particularly the vocal part about 11 and a half minutes through. I mean, what is that? This is so uninteresting for me. 0/10

I still plan on keeping this album in my collection simply because I hate the idea of getting rid of an album that I've taken the time to hear and collect. The parts where they randomly interview people are tedious and ineffective.

Pass on this unless you want to hear the musical representation of a coma.

Report this review (#189559)
Posted Sunday, November 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first post-rock album I've ever heard. I started listening to East Hastings, because this is the most popular song of the band...and I was fascinated. I gave more and more listens to this one and after some time I tried the other two as well. A great, undiscovered musical universe opened up in front of me. I got into post-rock and ambient (so, calm music) in the end of 2008, like I did it with (prog) metal the year before.

You will either love or hate this album, it depends on how you accept this kind of music. If you don't mind long and slowly growing compositions, you belong to the first category; if you do, forget about it. For me post-rock means tranquillity and deep cogitation about feelings.

1. The Dead Flag Blues: After the spoken intro (every song has its own one) enters a great string section, followed by a too long noise-gap. Around 11:00 somewhat bluesy guitars come in (source of the title?), which build up pretty harmonies. The sogn goes on into a cheesy 6/8 part then.

2. East Hastings: In one word, beautiful. The bagpipes start then a guitar-melody with haunting background effects joins in. At 4:32 starts the main melody (variant of the former), the drums make it even better. Then there's an orchestration shift, a cello part arrives, end then the admirable almost a capella vocal part (rarity!) containing the words ya da da da. Before the climax the instruments affiliate after one another, the speed is growing. After that comes the spoken word part with the repeated sentence they have a large barge.... The noises take over the song, the end contains helicopter and mosquito sounds.

3. Providence: The real opening is at 3:30 with the stunning cello solo. Especially nice is the background percussion playing, led by the tones of a glockenspiel. Eclecticism is a good word to describe the followings: we get some latin feeling with the trumpet, besides the monotonous drums, that give élan to the music. 10:30 seems to be the end, but then a strange, vibrant multi-vocal passage comes. The excellent leitmotif unfolds from the acoustic guitars to glorious violins and marching drums, as it ends, there's the simply marvellous, non-instrumental where are you going? section, with very emotional singing. 21:20 is also a fake-end, however, there is no sound until 24:50. The closing section contains echoing guitars, then a wild drum solo, finally everything fades out.

A real MASTERPIECE of post-rock.

Report this review (#201544)
Posted Tuesday, February 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars ".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." - Dead Flag Blues

This is not an album: it is a vigilantly formed piece of art.

I debated with myself for about 30 minutes before I started writing the review on whether I should give it four stars, or if it deserved the extra push to the title of masterpiece. I finally decided that this work of art deserves the masterpiece title. For one they are the grand masters of soundscaping, and make pretty damn good music as well.

I can imagine driving around the nowhere parts of North Carolina, West Virginia, or similar landscapes, and every gas station has a blinking-buzzing light, and the pumps are rusted and covered in grime. Every other car is a beat-up pick up truck, and most of the houses are trailer homes. It's raining, it's pretty dark, and your lost in the middle of nowhere. You turn on the radio, and an AM radio voice drenched in static is all that you can pick up. These are the images conveyed on this album, inspired by the cover art itself. Anyway, on to the music.

F# A# (Infinity) was released in 1998 off of Kranky Records. The material on this album consists of works produced by the band between the years of 1995 and 1998. Godspeed spent 3-4 years producing a masterpiece that covers 3 tracks, running just over 63 minutes. For anyone unfamiliar with Godspeed, they don't make "songs," but their albums consist of orchestral-like movements that flow intricately into each other to create larger compositions.

Dead Flag Blues preaches the end of the world. Hairs raise on the back of your neck to the violins that grace you after the futile speech in the beginning. A desolate sounding guitar (with altered timbre that makes it sound far away, or like its drowning in reverb) repeats the violin. The rest of the band follows and supports the guitar, creating a beautiful harmony. After that intro, we watch the "slow trains" make their way down the track, as we are graced with experimental droning sounds capes that get start and slowly get lower and lower and lower. Finally we come to the real "blues" of the album with "Cowboy." A western sounding baseline accompanied by another guitar and drums are overtaken by a lead violin, and eventually a distant slide guitar. This is one of the highlights of the entire album.

Salvation cries out through a preacher in the streets, as bagpipes sing out the same tune. East Hastings slowly settles itself in. After the intro, the melodies start to rise: the repeating of doomed guitar is eventually joined by complimentary drums and bass, slowly pounding under all three guitar players. The introduction of crooning strings, that morph to puncture wounds and die, only to be risen again to puncture a hole in your speakers. The crescendo is the greatest one on the album and blasts this track into the end with unbelievable motion. Then the "discharge is charged" with the final movement, a conglomeration of depressing sounds.

Providence is the finale. This epic 29 minute composition starts with another monologue like Dead Flag Blues did, talking about the apocalypse. Then as the song progresses, your blood pressure will start to rise during a faster paced (for GY!BE standards) 7/8 section which is another high point on the record. The glockenspiel eventually takes the lead until the end of the movement. Then the eerie bellowing of what sounds like Amazing Grace(?) begins the next section. This is similar to the great crescendo from "East Hastings" but not as impressive. What is probably the saddest part on the album takes old of the second to last movement, with the static surrounded beckoning of "Where are you going?" This part is an emotional breakdown of ambient guitars and static, which slowly fades into silence. After a movie is over, but you wait through the credits, there is sometimes another scene at the end. Well if you can sit through five minutes of silence, then the final movement "String Loop Manufactured During Downpour" beautifully ends the album with a violent and final explosion of guitars, violin, cello, drums and static.

I suggest taking in the entirety of the album by yourself so that you can appreciate what it illustrates. This album is a socially conscious masterpiece that creates sounds and sights for the mind that no other musician has successfully explored before. Calling this collective a band seems inappropriate, as they are more or less an orchestra! This is one of many prog albums that should and hopefully will be remembered centuries from now; it is simply that poignant, seriously that unique, and definitely, that progressive.

4.5/5 rounded up

Report this review (#203758)
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is certainly the most difficult listens from GY!BE but non the less a masterpiece. The songs evolve very slowly from mellow passages to create powerful and beautiful climaxes in a GY!BE/post rock fashion. But the music is more than just climaxes here and there. It's actually a depiction of the apocalyptic scenes, the end of the world. It's one of the darkest albums of their whole discography, no doubt about it. Already the beginning of the record tells it. The Dead Flag Blues begins with a sinister, yet beautiful 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. This song is not supposed to be a catchy opener, one should keep that in mind. The songs are not about being catchy or easy to get into, they are more of a form of art. It took me actually over a year to fully appreciate this. Before that it seemed to me that the first song, The Dead Flag Blues, didn't begin before the last five minutes, because that's when the drums fade in. I didn't realize that the song begun at first second, and that it's a masterpiece throughout the whole song, like all the songs are in the album

Now as I said, the album has an apocalyptic concept. It's interesting how they can make concept albums with a 100% message value without any lyrics (excluding the spoken parts). Take a look at the Yanqui U.X.O for example. No words, not even spoken, just music, but still, a high emphasis on their opinions and their messages for the world. How is that possible? They let the music do the talking (and the album sleeve.. but still).

To return to the matter, F#A#∞ is definitely a must have and a significant release in the post rock scene. GY!BE's beauty and finesse make others' work pale in comparison. The use of string instruments and horns make the music flow, creating overwhelming atmospheres and moods. The time just flies, a 20 minute song sounds like 2 minutes. The music is full of emotion, you should just lean back and let the music take you in to the corners of your subconscious. Surrender for the black emperor.

Report this review (#205736)
Posted Sunday, March 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR F# A# ∞ - what a concept

In actuality I cannot review this album conventionally as it simply defies explanation. How can you explain this music - you simply cannot. You have to experience it, feel it, wallow in its tranquil beauty and sudden darkness that overwhelms each track. And they arent even tracks - they are something undefined. Is it music or is it an expression outside the realm of sound?

There are musical instruments but they are played with almost infinite and at times maddening patience. This is as slow as I have heard, minimalism, repetition and trance like rhythms. You cannot really expect to enjoy this music in one listen, it has to enter the conscious. Once it does the realm of music is reinvented. It is not at all pleasant but it is nonetheless invigorating to the soul.

Maybe I should write in stream of consciousness style: It is gentle it is relaxed it is bold it is original it is an acquired taste and many will be turned completely off, similar to Magma I guess.

Perhaps this music is supposed to be a message? Perhaps it is just enigmatic for its own sake - but underlying the whole thing there is a definitive monologue that is haunting and disturbing. "The Dead Flag Blues" speaks to us of fiery disasters and doom. But it is honest and sincere and downright raw emotion! I saw this clip on youtube and it was emotionally arresting. There are doom laden basslines and violins and piano staccatos that stab and weave like a tapestry among the maelstrom of sound.

I still cannot really enjoy this music - perhaps its not meant to be thoroughly enjoyed - but I can give it at least 3 stars for pure inventiveness and daring.

Report this review (#215268)
Posted Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a solemn man, with an old voice carved out from many years of living states, "Kiss me, you are beautiful, these are truly the last days", the mood is set for F#A# ∞. These truly are the sounds of the post apocalypse. Through the entire album, the listener is given a dark, bleak grey soundscape all to themself to be a witness to an eerie world that is empty, but bears a striking resemblance to the one we live in today.

Godspeed You Black Emperor! is a band with superb compositional abilities to bring out extreme emotions with slowly building tracks usually 15 minutes in length or more. On F#A# ∞, there is little joy to be found, only the most somber melancholy examples of music to be found. They achieve this through quiet, clean guitars, violin, cellos, paced percussion, glockenspiel, bass, and horns. This album is an excellent example of how well deep, dark moods can be buit up continuously to create a complete storm of emotions, and that's exactly what the band does on this album.

Although the compositions may tend to drift and lose the listeners interest because of their short length, most notably in "East Hastings", there are tons of flawless music sections to be found. From the inauspicious monologue found at the beginning of "Dead Flag Blues" to the 7/8 build in "Providence", filled with drifting glockenspiel and somber cellos building to a crashing climax. "Providence" contains several music sections separated by lengths of silences, ranging from a wavering voice desperately yearning to know "Where are you going?" to a heroic build found in one of the later sections.

All in all, this a completely wonderful album. Any prog fan should definetely listen to it. And for any post rock fan or music collector who enjoys some of the bleakest most melancholy music ever, this is a MUST HAVE!

Report this review (#218305)
Posted Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars So this isn't exactly what I would call post-rock, it is kind of ambient music, it is very minimalistic, with very little musicianship and rather like a soundtrack for a movie. It is beautiful though, they create really incredible soundscapes and the feeling you get while listening to the album is very much like the picture in the cover art.

"The Dead Flag Blues" starts with an eerie monologue, very intense and profound, it has a great ambient and its very moody, it's sublime. "East Hastings" is the one which appeals the least to me, well, when I'm listening to this I am not so paying much attention to the music but rather just letting myself go without really focusing, this song is great but it is not so creative in my opinion. Finally, the 29 minute track "Providence", and this, this is something else! This song is absolutely great and it's the main reason to listen to this album, it contains wonderful vocals along with soft post-rockish guitar and it's never really exhausting, well the minutes of silence aren't really awesome, but if you're in the mood they will go really fine, by the end you have a sort of a cliché in post-rock, the explosion, and to be fair, it could be better, it sounds kinda low and raw, if this was successfully made it would made this track perfect.

Overall this is one great album to relax and immerse yourself in the night, really beautiful music and moving soundscapes. Stunning.

Report this review (#229220)
Posted Friday, July 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This record is the soundtrack of the apocalypse. It's gonna take a few listens to sink in, but once it does, you will probably find it to be a truly great album, each of the three long songs being connected in misery and darkness. The feeling I get from F#A# Infinity is a city of people watching a nuke crashing into them, each second before their vaporization being lengthened in their minds, as mothers hold their children, lovers find solace in each others arms, and people think of what life is, what it could have been, and what it has become. It's a sad, depressing album, not for everyday listening, but when the time is right, it can be a thing to behold. Of course, GYBE is not for everyone, and some will find this dull and overrated, even after a few good listens, and that's fine, everyone has different tastes, and people are bound to think differently than you on certain things. Three stars seems right, though this is something you should really take a test run of first.
Report this review (#264056)
Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The first time I heard Godspeed You! Black Emperor was at my old college dorm in Montreal. My friend wanted to show me this fantastic "indie" band and, while I was incredulous, I wanted to be open minded and let him put it on.

Boy was I ever surprised.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, if nothing else, should be noted for their sheer musical ingenuity and daring. In a culture of music that, no matter the genre, resigns itself to set musical instrumentation, structure and composition, this collective dares to produce music that is ingenious and inventive in every way imaginable. The pieces are 15 to 30 minute musical soundscapes. There is "conventional" music, relying heavily on elements of minimalism and utilizing dynamics to great effect, interwoven with spoken word, sound clips and other assorted "noise" that is the closest thing you will ever hear to a musical picture. The experience is sublime, to say the least.

While fans of post-rock will quickly identify with some of the more structured parts of Godspeed You!'s music, this is truly a progressive album. The sheer cathartic release from this album is unparalleled, and it is not an exaggeration to say it is one of the best albums I have ever heard, period.

Report this review (#294169)
Posted Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'F# A# ∞' - Godspeed You! Black Emperor (6/10)

Post-rock has been said to be a genre in decline, but at its peak was once Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a band who really went beyond the minimalistic guitar flourishes many have become accustomed to with the genre and amped up the orchestrations with lush string sections and electronic ambiance. Here is the band's debut, 'F# A# ∞', which- possibly dwarfed only by the band's sophomore- is among the most highly regarded works in all of post-rock, and worshiped by critics across the board. While 'F# A# ∞' is certainly in no dearth of intelligence or passion however, its indulgent sense of ambiance and mellowness can tend to make the album a toss-up between what sections of brilliance there are present here, and the somewhat more common quiet soundscapes and tedious stretches of silence that plague the record.

Being my first true experience with the band sparing a remarkably fitting sequence their music was set to in the film 28 Days Later, 'F# A# ∞' comes to me only with the knowledge that the band is one of the most well-regarded in both indie and progressive music scenes. With that having been said, I can simultaneously see why they might herald such acclaim, but I am also remarkably underwhelmed. Even after several listens to the record, 'F# A# ∞' remains to me an album that seems to have a world of potential and unfulfilled brilliance in it. Instead, Godspeed seems to get lost in their own indulgences with their debut. Although the album is over an hour long, there are only a few precious minutes on each track that truly warrants a listener's excitement. Most notable among these are actually the more conventional post-rock moments on the album, which bring about a great deal of emotional resonance to them. Besides that, the instruments are used quite frugally, giving way to very minimalistic electronic samples, tape loops, and even a few spoken word dialogues in each of 'F# A# ∞'s three parts. The dialogues do come as a bit of a system shock- the sound of a human voice in this mostly instrumental affair comes as something of a surprise each time- but despite what philosophical ponderings they may stir the first few spins around the record, the rough way they are mixed and the somewhat off-putting way they are integrated into the music doesn't work so well.

'F# A# ∞' is certainly a diverse album, but the proportions are all out of place. Had the band used the exact same ingredients but used them in such a way where much of the droning silence was taken out in the favour of cohesive composition and musicianship, Godspeed could have easily convinced me of their excellence. The band shows themselves to me as an act with some of the most potential the post-rock genre has ever seen, but while 'F# A# ∞' may be still very good for what it is, it is still a record that can only be played for very specific moods.

Report this review (#459286)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It will surprise few to learn that director Danny Boyle was listening to a lot of Godspeed You Black Emperor when putting together his arthouse zombie film 28 Days Later, because Godspeed have a uniquely morose and doom-laden sound in post-rock reminiscent of decaying, uninhabited, post-human extinction wastelands. Along with Scotland's Mogwai, Godspeed pioneered a "found footage" approach to post-rock, embellishing their compositions with sonic extracts from field recordings (or band-produced conversations engineered to appear like field recordings), against which their band-orchestra rumbles along with occasional outbursts of thunder like an angry stormcloud. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but a Black Emperor.
Report this review (#633993)
Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Want to dive into the atmosphere of the word after the Apocalypse?

Godspeed You Black Emperor's debut full length establishes the traits of the band of subject as well as a bite of the sound of post-rock in general. My understanding of this album is that F#A# (infinity) was meant to challenge the listener's perception of music, make them think, and/or engulf them in a certain atmosphere. There's no time to fiddle with riffs in the traditional rock sense, no over-the-top goofiness, not even many words to follow along with. The whole point of F#A# (infinity) appears to put the listener in a mood.

It's almost as if the album is meant to be understood subconsciously, so those with a more ''normal'' approach to understanding prog rock will have anger bouts trying to determine just what the heck is going on. The music has more in common with classical music or film scores, but the electric guitar plays quite the prominent role in shaping the themes, so it's fair to assume this has ''rock'' connotations.

The mood GY!BE put the listener in is quite bleak and depressing. Listening to ''Dead Flag Blues'' after the poetry at the beginning (which by itself sounds rather dull) gives a surprisingly distant yet warm tone that cannot be fully transposed into words. Then there are those ecstasy moments, usually augmented by the drum tempo, where the band go into full Magma mode where the brain tunes out the world around so that there's nothing left but the intensity and mesmerisation of the music in your headphones. Look at the middle of ''East Hastings'' or the 7/8 section of ''Providence'' to hear where I'm going with this.

All that said, there are simply too many nitpicks. Many times there will be some dead space in between themes. It's good to have the listener breathe, but there's only so much quiet tension one can take before boredom sets in. The worst is towards the end of ''Providence'' which does the irritating 90's trick of going into a few minutes of silence before pulling back into the music.

If you've ever heard of an album being more of an experience, this is one of those albums. Get this to hear how the granddaddies of post-rock got the ball rolling.

Report this review (#912663)
Posted Monday, February 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars "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..."

The world-weary introductory narration to "The Dead Flag Blues", the opening elegy off the debut Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, sets a haunting mood that would forever define the musical career of these Canadian Post Rock pioneers. But more than that, it also describes the experience of listening to the album itself, which for a newcomer can feel like a headlong plunge into a bottomless pool of terror and bliss.

Despite all the maudlin strings and atmospheric guitars, that first epic medley is nowhere near as gloomy as its apocalyptic monologue would suggest. In fact after the rumbling freight train sound effect it turns almost jaunty, in a turn-of-the-last century sort of way. But what was it that Freud said about trains and death? The symbolism should be obvious, even to listeners who don't remember the similar metaphor used by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR in "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", almost three decades earlier.

The eighteen-minute instrumental tension and release of "East Hastings" could have been designed as a blueprint for Post Rock structural dynamics. And when the nearly half-hour long "Providence" rolls slowly over the horizon (beginning with more rumors of Armageddon) the harder rock elements are finally pushed to center stage, in a tense, escalating jam that almost singlehandedly justifies the band's place on a web site devoted to Progressive Rock.

Of course even then GY!BE was more of an open-door orchestral collective than a legitimate rock group, and their first album needs to be absorbed by some form of sonic osmosis rather than listened to in a traditional manner. The music is often too loud for ambient navel-gazing, too slow for short attention spans, and arranged in piecemeal fragments, not always integrated successfully but helping the album achieve its uneasy, fractured power. Even the mini-masterpiece of "Providence" doesn't quite reach the dramatic resolution it promises, breaking into a sort of Post Rock bolero instead.

Maybe the young ensemble didn't believe there would ever be a second album, so they forced all their scattershot ideas onto a single disc. But the breadth of music is never less than impressive, and the impact of this freshman effort is undeniable. What it ultimately foretold was not the end of the world, but the start of an enigmatic, influential career.

Report this review (#929828)
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars After taking their name from a Japanese documentary about a biker gang called the Black Emperors, GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR took some of the ideas laid down by Slint on their highly influential album "Spiderland" and ran away with them creating some seriously epic sounding music on their debut F♯A♯∞ which is pronounced F-sharp, A-sharp, Infinity and refers to the keys in which each side of the vinyl LP begins and to the endless loop at the end. The first time I heard this it screamed soundtrack and an apocalyptic one at that, so it was no surprise to learn that this strange melancholic chamber music that makes me think of a world of death and destruction where cockroaches, rats and pigeons will finally have their day, was a major influence on Danny Boyle's post-apocalyptic thriller "28 Days Later." A little bit of "The Sad Mafioso" appears in the film.

This is some very strange music indeed. It takes the term post-rock and really expands its boundaries by incorporating not only the Slint influenced eschatological field recordings that originated from the unfinished screenplay written by guitarist Efrim Menuck to usher in the bleak atmosphere that sets the stage for the lugubriousness to come, but in addition to the standard post-rock of the day, GYBE incorporates everything from a spaghetti western feel to surf rock to musique concrete and free jazz. But what mostly this reminds me of the RIO chamber music usually associated with the likes of Univers Zero or Henry Cow in terms of mood modifying tonalities and mind-numbing darkness.

The number of musicians here is quite impressive and the three lengthy tracks that really don't have any set musical form just move like a liquid flowing down a hill bending to the curves of the land and only a slave to the gravitational forces that steer them. The gravitational pull in this music all revolves around the fact that anything is fair game as long as it leads to the most abysmal, catastrophic and doom-laden. Repeated listens are necessary in order for this to soak in because there is not much to latch onto in terms of memorable musical segments. This album really has the effect of taking me out of an intellectualism towards the music and evokes the emotional response mechanism of the brain, a technique that post-rock aims to achieve and GYBE more than does so on this fascinating debut. With this release GYBE created a new standard for this type of music to be compared with and it rarely gets more original than what is presented here.

Report this review (#1206138)
Posted Sunday, July 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars This album is one of the most essential albums in the sub-genre of post rock. It is beautiful, stark, ambient at times and explosive in others. It is by all rights a modern art masterpiece. I remember being captivated by it the first time I heard it, and I thought at the time that my love for it would slacken after hearing it several more times. I have put this album to the test and have even grown to love it more, and that is after hearing countless times now. Simply beautiful and pensive, yet complex and explosive. So much emotion throughout the album that even the loudest passages can make you feel overwhelmed with emotion to be close to tears. And different passages touch me differently each time I hear it.

The original album was comprised of 2 long tracks which were in turn divided into multiple movements. The vinyl album was only distributed privately by the band and through their concerts. However, word of mouth got out and the band was signed to a label and the band was honed down from 15 or more members to 10, the label re-issued the album on CD and the band created one more track ("Providence") to expand the total time to over an hour. The music was rearranged a bit for the CD, but the vinyl copy remains as it was. The beauty of the vinyl copy are the many "extras" that come with it, including a penny crushed by a moving train. (I love those extras when they are added to vinyl albums.) Also, the vinyl copy has a locked groove at the end of the final track that can play until infinity, or until the listener lifts the needle from the record. I do have the CD copy also though, and I love both of them almost as 2 separate albums.

Starting out, you get "The Dead Flag Blues" which is probably the highlight of the album, even though I love the entire album. It is divided into 3 sub sections on the CD and 6 sections on the vinyl copy. The Intro section on the CD is slightly longer than the vinyl edition, but it's hard to tell the difference between the two. This section features a beautifully composed and read poem about the apocalypse which has a long instrumental break in the middle. The instrumental feels like part of the complete poem and is a slow burning beat with a violin leading the instruments with a slight crescendo and then it cools back down for the last of the poem. The second section is called "Slow Moving Trains/The Cowboy..." On the vinyl, these are separated into two tracks, but are still the same playing time. You hear the train with some awesome ambient descending/ascending drone underneath it. So beautiful. Finally, a melody comes along in the form of an almost spaghetti-western sounding melody on guitar. It works as a great soundtrack to any Cormac McCarthy book or even "The Gunslinger" series by Stephen King. Such a great apocalyptic sound. At this point, the CD ends the track with a two minute outro of the song while the vinyl takes one of the movements from the "East Hastings" track called "Drugs in Tokyo" and places it here before doing the Outro. Then the vinyl also adds another short "Untitled" movement to close out the track completely.

The next track is called "East Hastings" on the CD and called "Bleak, Uncertain, Beautiful..." on the vinyl copy. The first movement is called "Nothing's Alrite in Our Life/The Dead Flag Blues (Reprise)" on both CD and vinyl, but the vinyl version is 1/2 minute longer. This is a track that features a street preacher with bagpipes playing the reprise. This fades and is replaced by "The Sad Mafioso..." on both editions, but the CD version is over 10 minutes where it is just over 5 minutes on the vinyl version. This has a very nice drone which is manipulated to be warped up and down in tone to a very nice effect while a building guitar pattern is played for a while before breaking into a improvised solo based on the pattern. This builds to a climax which is released, the drone quits and a fast percussion pattern starts. A new crescendo starts with a new guitar pattern which also breaks into improvisation, builds to a climax and then releases again. At this point on the CD, the next movement is "Drugs in Tokyo/Black Helicopter" which ends the track in electronic noise and ambience until the end of the track. The vinyl version at this point takes the movement known as "Kicking Horse at Brokenhill" which is part of the "Providence" track on the CD version, then ends the track with "String Loop Manufactured While Downpour", also part of "Providence" on the CD. The track plays through until it comes to the locked groove which is where the album gets it's title as the music alternates from an F# chord to A# chord played until infinity. I usually can't wait that long, so I life the needle off the record after about a 1/2 minute or so.

The last track on the CD is about a half hour long, and except where noted above, does not exist on the vinyl version. This track starts out with "Divorce & Fever..." which is a field recording of an interview. The next movement takes over with "Dead Metheny...." which is led by a cello playing a melody with several other instruments floating around the melody which builds to a climax and then passes into the next movement "Kicking Horse at Brokenhill" which has a military type rhythm. At the end of that, a piece of a sampled song from the musical "Godspell" plays repeatedly and fades into "String Loop...." which is a beautiful ambient piece of sound effects, drones and accompaniment. This fades to silence for about 3 minutes and then moves into the last movement "J.L.H Outro" which is named after John Lee Hooker. I'm not sure if this is a sampled piece of music that has been electronically altered or not, but the track plays a repeated sound with ambience swirling around it.

So, I have tried my best to describe this masterpiece of an album, but it is so hard to express the emotions of destitution, loss, loneliness and hope that this music conveys. It's not all bleak as it may sound, because there is a feeling of hope and beauty that is threaded throughout this music. I feel it as a tribute to the human spirit, that even though all may seem lost, the spirit always finds a way to survive. I could never hope to express how wonderful this music is in words, you must listen for yourself. And it is not truly listening by playing it as background music, the best experience is when you can be uninterrupted and have a pair of great headphones on. Then let yourself get lost into whatever images your mind conjures up. This is such a wonderful example of rock influenced neo-classical music....or post rock.

A lot of post-rock bands use the basic construction of quiet, crescendo, climax for the pattern to develop their songs. Unfortunately, they forget to add effective use of dynamics, emotion and ingenuity and end up with a lot of half-hearted music. Many bands like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor know how to do things right in this respect. But this album is a perfect example of what post-rock should be. For that reason, this is an essential album in every sense. If you listen to one post-rock album, this should be it. 5 glowing stars.....but it's a perfect 6 star album, and I don't give out the extra star very often.

Report this review (#1365523)
Posted Monday, February 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Godspeed You! Black Emperor's debut is a haunting, memorable, and quirky release. From the ambient stretches, the samples, to the post-rock crescendos, its main attraction is its apocalyptic atmosphere.

Even in the absence of words, GY!BE brings plenty of mood to their music, but with their inclusion, it gets even better. Featuring an eerie spoken word piece, Dead Flag Blues immediately produces visions of doom in its first movement. The lyrics are poetic, powerful, and the song embodies what Loutallica's Lulu should've sounded like. The music that accompanies it brings to mind many different scenarios, but the one we're given is the end of the world, and it works. Following the end of the vocals, DFB builds into a delicate, beautifully desolate post-rock climax?

And then the song winds down and draws to a close, just when things are getting really good. This F#A#'s major flaw; while GY!BE executes atmosphere extremely well, the music is lacking. DFB's peak is relatively intense, and even the bulk of East Hastings seems like it is building up to something huge, but never quite reaches it before descending into noise. Providence is just a bloated mess of samples and unrelated themes that give up too soon, withering away into nothingness before they reach anything of much value, being abandoned just as the movement nears a peak. There is no real climax in Providence; while it does have its moments, it scarcely functions in separate movements, let alone as a whole. Essentially, it is a collection of half-assed buildup and breakdown, a more extreme version of the problem that plagues the rest of the album. In short, GY!BE's debut is incredibly atmospheric, and musically mediocre. Dead Flag Blues is an excellent song, minimizing the problem and emphasizing the best features of the album; it is definitely worth listening to, but the rest of the album is optional.

Report this review (#1468379)
Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I Open My Wallet...

The first full-length album from GYBE sets the pattern for their subsequent albums, with their post-apocalyptic soundscapes and slow build-ups from quiet as a whisper to thundering to quiet again. But this album has something that other GYBE albums don't really have - a poem that is, effectively, lyrics. Other GYBE albums put street noises, bustlers, radio broadcasts, and street poets over top of the music. But the very first track here "Dead Flag Blues (intro") is extra special. Over top of dramatic string music, one of the band members recites a poem that fits well with their general message and atmosphere. I think this is one of their very best tracks, ever. The rest of the album is essentially instrumental, with the usual street noises, etc, and although the CD version is a bit long (the CD contains extra music, and extra/extended noise-tracks), the music here is excellent. "East Hastings" is one of their most powerful pieces of music, and a key part of their live show (when I have seen them, they have closed their concert with this piece). It is named after the main street in Canada's poorest and most distressing neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in Vancouver (although the band itself is from Montreal). Other key pieces include "Sad Mafioso" and "Dead Metheny", both of which also have featured in their live sets. But it is the intro to Dead Flag Blues that gets me, every time. The only flaw here is that this album is slow, slower than their other albums. The CD version is particularly long. But I still think it is worth it to get the CD. I give this album 8.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which puts it in the 4 PA star realm.

Report this review (#1697630)
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars The way this album sounds is perfectly represented by the album art, with the tone and atmosphere sounding like the soundtrack to a post apocalyptic wasteland. The imagery invoked by each slow, sweeping passage of music is incredibly vivid, flooding your head with pictures of empty, desolate plains, wind picking up light dust and blowing it past, dead trees in the distance, everything broken. Despite such vivid, melancholic imagery, the music itself is incredibly beautiful, with the string arrangements sounding absolutely amazing, never overpowering the delicate soundscapes created, but also bringing absolutely immense power when needed, leading to many moments in which I felt completely blown away.

'The Dead Flag Blues' has one of the greatest spoken word passages in music, perfectly capturing the essence of the band, with the dark brooding nature of it, backed up by a slowly building, atmospheric orchestral arrangement that sounds absolutely amazing. During the entire runtime of the track, there is honestly not too much progression, with mostly subtle changes as it goes on, simply getting somewhat more grandiose by the end. This is a common theme that I actually really like, using long stretches of music to capture a certain image or emotion, and then simply building on it slowly, in order to not disrupt what is being created. While this has the potential to end up becoming extremely boring, I find this album immersive enough to keep me engaged the entire way through. 'East Hastings' manages to be even greater than the first song, having a slow build throughout, becoming gradually more intense, having some more melodic elements to it, such as the incredible cello playing off the quiet guitar riff, slowly becoming more intense as the drumming slowly becomes more involved, faster, more complex. Instrument after instrument is slowly added, as the song continues to increase until it becomes incredibly intense. This part blows me away every time I listen to it, and is the best part of the album for sure. 'Providence' is much longer and more free flowing, with many points in which things escalate immensely, with smatterings of trumpets and other instruments throughout, and is definitely another very high quality piece, with some absolutely awe inspiringly beautiful musical passages.

While some may find this sort of music somewhat dull, due to its generally slow pace and general uneventfulness at points, I personally find this album to be absolutely incredible. The amount of emotion packed into each minute of each song is nothing short of breathtaking, along with some extremely vivid sonic imagery. Despite this only being my first taste of GY!BE, I definitely want to listen to more, because this album is an utter masterpiece in my opinion.

Best Songs: All of them

Weakest Songs: None of them

Verdict: For anyone interested in expansive soundscapes and powerful atmosphere, I highly recommend this album, but if you prefer your music to be more song focused, I'd say that you probably wouldn't enjoy this album, since I can definitely see how this could be boring to some.

Report this review (#2118711)
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2019 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very enigmatic and different music from other post-rock acts of that time. Dark and intimate soundscapes building up in cresciendo. The sound of guitar even if calm sounds desolate or mourning to me. Monologues contribute to its sinister mood. Calming violin is not virtuoso one but adds to mournful atmosphere. The first track "The dead fag blues" has a quiet first part and OK monologue but it is the second half with drums that contains the trademark post-rock guitar and grandiose wall of sound. Involving banjo in the last country-like section turns the composition into happier landscape.

"East Hastings" starts with a great exotic and nervous sounding excursion into a developing 3-rd country market. Slowly a perfect dark motive played by guitar creeps in and thanks to violin or cello, it feels like wind is blowing in the background. Cello takes over a simple lead. The climax is reached with drums emerging and accelerating into a fast marching rockin train. The rest of the composition is experimental about soundscapes and not too memorable.

"Providence" has a majestic violin and drums walking and a very intensive end with loud guitar and drums.

A wonderful and unique piece of music but there isn't so much packed in as some may expect for 63 minutes.

Report this review (#2282942)
Posted Wednesday, November 20, 2019 | Review Permalink


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