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Monday, April 22, 2013

Godspeed You! Black Emperor -- F# A# Infinity

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9/10

Considering how badly I dissed Godspeed You! Black Emperor last year, readers might be surprised to hear that they were once one of my favorite bands. These reviews are a great chance to revisit and reevaluate my past, so let's take a look at Godspeed's back-catalog to see if it holds up today.
I originally got into Godspeed because I liked Sigur Rós, and Amazon thought Godspeed would be a good match for me. Back then, there weren't many bands that sounded like the two (i.e., "post-rock" bands who recorded ten-minute rock symphonies), and recommendations were few and far between. Mogwai was the only other point of reference, and I found Mogwai to be insufferably boring. Godspeed it was.
To my early 20's ears, F # A# Infinity, Godspeed's debut, sounded beautiful, bleak, terrifying, and hopeful. Later in life (2005, to be exact), I had quite a horrific out of body experience to the final two minutes of the track, "East Hastings." Lost had just finished its first season on ABC. At the same time, I had just gone through a traumatic personal experience (and here's a post from the day that experience occurred, which eventually combined with other life factors to get me to this particular place). Anyway, anyone who's watched Lost remembers this scene.

Well, maybe you don't remember it exactly like that, but the original scene scared the crap out of me. I felt lost at sea in life, and the idea that mysterious, malicious strangers were cruising around in the middle of the night, looking to hurt me, freaked me out. Same with the freaky radio signals on the show, coming from God knows where. I mean, my grip on reality was tenuous at best during this period, and I was mainly awake at night, paranoid, losing it. One night I popped on "East Hastings," and the ominous, repeating, found-voice announcement on "East Hastings," "There was a large barge with an antenna on top of it that they would charge up and discharge," gave me chills and set off an anxiety attack. The sudden, terrifying, electronic noises at the end of the song (the antenna going off), and the sound of a mosquito buzzing around the orbit of one's brain, took over my body, and I blacked out into a waking nightmare, a sleep paralysis event that definitely ranks among the worst I've had. Later, I tried to duplicate the experience for someone, and I scared them so badly they were begging me to stop and pretty much crying long before I was done.
FAR removed from those events, that part of the song is still freaky, and sorry I just talked about myself for this whole review. Back to the actual album...
Throughout this mix of instrumental, quiet to loud rock, strings and horns, found sounds and voices, and electronic and analog tomfoolery, a lot of hope breaks through, too, though. That's what made this band and makes this album so enticing. It's about as dark as possible at moments, but it also features plenty of hopeful, uplifting moments that counter the bleakness. Hope in the face of overwhelming odds is pretty much the greatest thing ever, so this album still rules by that count. Shortly after my terror experience, I finally got over F# A# Infinity's fear elements and latched onto that hope, and I can still hear it clear as day today. Wish that hope would have made it into their live show...
Hey, let's talk about scary crap one more time, though. Danny Boyle actually cut 28 Days Later to this album. Here's "East Hastings" in its entirety, the ending (which triggered my terror event) of which is described by one Youtube user as, "16:40 this is the creepiest shit ever...this song just keeps going further and further down the circles of hell..." Indeed, Youtube user. Indeed.


1997 Constellation/Kranky
1. The Dead Flag Blues 16:27
2. East Hastings 17:58
3. Providence 29:02

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