A decade has passed since the release of Yanqui U.X.O ., the last album by
Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Never a band to pay heed to industry
wisdom, Yanqui was released shortly before xmas 2002 with little publicity,
no press availability, no marketing plans, cross-promotions or brand
synergies, adorned with now infamous back cover artwork diagramming
the links between major record labels and the military-industrial complex.
Like all GYBE albums, this one did just _ne and ‘found it’s audience’: a
passionate and committed fanbase galvanized by the group's sonic vision
and its dedication to unmediated, unsullied musical communication.
That such simple principles and goals have become harder to maintain and
enact a decade later is an understatement. For all the contents and
discontents – for all the “content”– of our present cultural moment, the
idea of circumventing the glare of exposure or side-stepping the careful
plotting of media cycles and identity management seems profoundly illadvised,
if not futile. But Godspeed is looking to try all the same. The band
wants people to encounter and care about this new album, without telling
people they should. They seek to preserve the thrill of anonymous and
uncalculated transmission, knowing full well that these days, anti-strategy
risks being tagged as a strategy, non-marketing framed as its opposite,
and deeply held principles they consider fundamental to health as likely to
be interpreted as just another form of stealth.
The band has been carving its own path again since 2010, regrouping as
the same self-managed collective entity it has been from the outset,
making appearances at a tiny clutch of music festivals, and otherwise just
touring its own shows. It's been a disorienting time to resurface, but it
has felt overwhelmingly right, honest and good.
We think Godspeed has made a new record that maintains if not exceeds
the standards of their previous work – a high bar, many would agree.
GYBE picked up right where they left o_, and after almost two years of
practicing, playing and touring, ‘ Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! delivers
two mighty sides of music (bookended by two new drones) that the band
had been working up prior to their 2003 hiatus, which they have now
shaped into something definitively stunning, immersive and utterly true to
their legacy. The future looks dark indeed, but on the evidence of this new
recording, Godspeed appears wholly committed to staring it down,
channeling it, and fighting for some rays of sound (and flickers of light)
that feel righteous, unflinching, hopeful and pure.