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f#a# (infinity symbol)

1 rating: 5.0
An album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

On first listen, Montreal collective Godspeed You Black Emporer sounds familiar, like sonic-landscape architects the Dirty Three. But pay closer attention to this debut full-length and you'll find something much more compelling: G.Y.B.E. mix found sounds, … see full wiki

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1 review about f#a# (infinity symbol)

Soundtrack for the end of the world?

  • Dec 7, 2002
"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. The government is corrupt, and we're on so many drugs, with the radio on and the curtains drawn. We're 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 leering, and the flags are all dead at the top of their polls."

With this harrowing, deep-voiced monologue begins _f#a#00_ (I can't make the infinity symbol so I'm improvising), a cinematic masterpiece lacking pictures but telling a lucid tale. Long, dusty, lonely elegies of smotheringly morose music illustrate a world on the brink of apocalypse. This is Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s first readily available album (forget trying to find their debut...only 33 copies were ever made ::sigh::), and to many it was their first experience to this band's stunning power. Calm but eerie silences can be extremely disarming as crescendos and loud dynamics can creep up unexpectedly, then retreat with equal abruptness. The band has seemingly concretized into a nonet, but here I'm not sure how many musicians actually worked on this record (I've heard numbers from nine to seventeen). Needless to say this is not a conventional rock band at all. I'm not sure I'd call this rock music anyway -- the writing is so structurally unusual, stylistically diverse, and instrumentally the band works more like a mini-orchestra. Each instrument, from violins to guitars to percussion, is an integral part of an organic collective rather than different musicians working together. Erm, those might sound like the same thing but they really aren't.

Each track is a lengthy suite (16-minutes, 18-minutes, and 28-minutes long) languidly flowing through several movements. Taken individually, each section is remarkable in its own right but the full power of the music is the meshing of different passages to splash different undertows of emotion over a general mood. One could easily say the individual passages have nothing to do with each other and feel randomly spliced together, but I couldn't disagree more. Each movement carries on from the last with coterminous emotions, establishing a congruous whole encapsulated within each track. Perhaps the different movements don't make cohering musical sense (though I don't know who would be actually qualified to say such a thing), but they _do_ make emotional sense.

"The preacher-man says it's the end of time...so says the preacher-man, but I don't go on what he says."

For all of GYBE!'s anguished dirges for apocalyptic endings, there is a faint sparkle of hope sluiced somewhere inside that doomed, lonely shell. This dichotomy of tone -- faint-but-defiant hope and crushing despair -- is emotionally twisting, uniquely powerful, and has resonated through me ever since I've started listening to this band. I'm not sure how long the feeling will last, but this stuff cuts deep. The crescendos this band peaks at are nothing less than utterly overpowering -- 11 minutes into track 2, "East Hastings", I come dangerously close to crawling into a dark corner, clutching myself in the fetal position, and whimpering , "mommy..."

"...hungover it's awful, the sound of trains collapsing back behind of here; outside there are distant birds circling in front of 7 miles of heavy cloud falling down, &from where you're lying one of those clouds looks like a hanged man leading a blind, indifferent horse...THIS IS MILE END MY FRIEND, the hollowed out ruins here &a train runs straight thru them... we made a record here in mile End..."

Those familiar with the band's mythic anonymity and vehement artistic credo may call them pretentious, but I'll be damned if they don't write some of the greatest music I've ever heard. Turn off the lights, crank the volume (this needs to be heard LOUD), and become lost in Mile End. It's a despairing, forlorn place, but you may never want to leave.

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f#a# (infinity symbol)
Label: Kranky
Release Date: January 8, 2007

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