September 11, 2003
How does one describe music so vast, emotional and enigmatic without sounding silly? It's almost impossible, which is why I'd recommend readers to look elsewhere on this page for comprehensive, well-articulated, eloquent descriptions, as you probably won't find them in this particular review. I cannot offer anything more than subjective explorations, as I've owned this thing for months, and I still struggle trying to form coherent statements about it.
Having said that, Godspeed You! Black Emperor - a nine piece band from Canada - has created some of the most evocative, atmospheric, reflective and beautiful music. LIFT YOUR SKINNY FISTS LIKE ANTENNAS TO HEAVEN! (2000) is an instrumental album (excluding some of the random voice samples heard in a few of the tracks) comprised of four 20-minute tracks which play out in near-classical style. The band integrates strings (violin, cello, etc.) into their "rock" music, which also adds to the orchestral element of it all. Many of the arrangements also seem to play out in ascending mode: one ascending pattern plays, while another will ascend beneath, and behind it, like in circular motion. If I were to try and label this music, I'd call it a mix of ambient, anthem, orchestral, and psychedelic rock. Like many have stated, the pattern of soft, slow, build, explode, calm seems to play that way through each of the tracks, although, I don't think it's repelling enough to outweigh the impact one will receive after hearing, or rather experiencing, this music.
"Storm" is my favorite track on the album. Everyone will have their own responses as to what the tracks represent. As for me, this particular track reminds me of a song of the earth, or the song/anthem of life. It reminds me of a forest on a mid-autumn day with a tint of sunlight beaming through the shade: earthy, melancholic, reflective, balanced, ambivalent - the kind of disposition humans would have after experiencing the most elated of joys, and the deepest of sadness - more specifically, the kind of balanced, bittersweet, slightly melancholic disposition one would have after being well-seasoned in the experiences of life. If the leaves, trees, and all of Earth's components (including the grass - mother nature's carpet) could sing, this is probably what you would hear -- a song representing life itself - the happiness and the sadness. In the center of the two moods, there is sort of a melancholic, bittersweet disposition, which is exactly what seems to be the mood of this track (for me.) Other than all of that, the track exudes an anthemic quality, as well as elegance, and also has a retro-feel to it, the kind of thing you swore you've heard in the late 60s or early 70s.
"Static" loses the balanced, melancholic, wisened/mature disposition, and moves into more darker, sinister, imbalanced areas. Anger, jealousy, rage and other turbulent emotions seem to come to mind when I hear this. I also think of the color red, particularly the darker kind, like a blood-red. Someone told me that this track should have been named "storm," as it's much stormier than the first track. He makes a great point, as this fiery, red-hot track gets loud, noisy, and dangerously aggressive, especially near the ending climactic point with it's distortion/feedback, screeching note-bends and other guitar dynamics which almost make for masochistic listening.
This music is beautiful, transcendent, evocative and nearly indescribable. Don't expect to be able to articulate your responses to it very easily: just look at the silly comments listed above in this review. Nevertheless, if you're looking for simple, straightforward pop (or metal) music, you'd be well-advised to ignore this album. If it's deep, atmospheric, droning, meditative music you're looking for, give this a shot.