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Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada E.P. CD (album) cover


Godspeed You! Black Emperor


Post Rock/Math rock

4.43 | 193 ratings

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4 stars I read a review of this EP a while back that included the following statement (I have been hanging onto it in the event it may prove useful at some point):

“Do you know how embarrassing it is to cream your pants in public because of your uncanny skills at aural pleasure?”

Over time I have started to become a bit jaded on these guys, especially considering their heavy use of Bolero-esque slowly building crescendos that may involve different instruments from time to time, and may have the odd twist or turn, but mostly are just predictable after a while.

That’s not really the case here. Well it is, but that sound was still fresh when this EP was released more than seven years ago, so really we’re talking about this sound before it became jaded. Only after-the-fact.

Today the post-rock landscape is strewn with clones, copycats, and those who were simply ‘inspired’ by Godspeed (who were probably inspired by Bark Psychosis themselves I suppose) to stretch their creative comfort zones into this more experimental dimension of sound. A select few are more interesting than Godspeed, most are not. And even Godspeed have branched out with more innovative outlets like Set Fire to Flames, somewhat abandoning the crescendo paradigm for a deeper exploration of the emotional dynamics that give birth to the sounds in the first place. This is dangerous musical deprivation-chamber territory of course, and at some point one (or more) of these guys will end up nude and standing in a trash can waving a summer squash at passing auras while reciting the ingredients to a can of Campbell’s tomato soup. Never look a crazy man in the eye. Or a monkey.

There are about a hundred or so interesting little bits of symbolism surrounding this EP. Some of them are intentional, some are not (depending on whose version of events you find more credible). Among them is the cover art itself, a simple Hebrew phrase "tohu va vohu", which apparently comes from the Bible and means "waste and void". One can imagine all the places in the Bible a phrase like that might prove to be useful.

Another is that the EP was released on vinyl, 45rpm on one side and 33rpm on the other. That one’s a bit easier to figure out. And the CD version doesn’t list the band’s credits or the track information (or so I’ve heard – I don’t have that one myself).

And the track “Blaise Bailey Finnegan III” is supposedly from an interview taken during an open mic event in Rhode Island in the late 1990s where a guy going by that name recited his ‘manifesto’ which later turned out to be pretty much the lyrics from a somewhat obscure Iron Maiden song titled “Virus’, which had been written by then- vocalist of the band Blaze Bayley as a new track for their 1997 ‘Best of’. The band claims they didn’t know this at the time, which seems a bit odd considering that album was still on the charts at the time the alleged interview was recorded, and Iron Maiden is hugely popular in Rhode Island. Either way the work comes off as brilliant. I’ve heard a live version though, and it does not translate very well to a concert setting (not that an evening with Goodspeed could probably be considered a concert in any conventional sense of the term).

But that doesn’t matter either, since this EP can probably only be considered as a contiguous piece of art in its original setting, which means on virgin vinyl and listened to probably with headphones. I don’t like headphones. I don’t like watches either, but for other reasons. I don’t like headphones because they remove the dimension of the world around us from the musical experience, and that just seems wrong somehow. Especially for music like Godspeed’s where the artists themselves wrap their music in the context of the world around us and draw our attention to it, not away. That world is an integral part of their music because that world inspired it. We all have a Mile End where we come from (read the liner notes), and that place, usually near the railroad tracks or some sort of public transport, is (or was) a conduit for people into the stream of the world around us. It’s also the best place to observe the chaff, those who don’t quite make it through the conduit, and are left instead to float on the periphery and try to figure out why. This is The Struggle. This is also where cats get lost.

Life is not neat, it is not ordered, but it is. These are great songs and the headphones will help to emphasize this while the songs are playing. But then take them off and go outside.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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