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

F# A# ∞

Godspeed You! Black Emperor


Post Rock/Math rock

4.09 | 425 ratings

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Special Collaborator
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.

TCat | 5/5 |


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