Godspeed You Black Emperor!

The volume of verbiage spent on trying to "get" godspeed you! black emperor is especially silly once you realize that very few bands have put as much effort into ensuring that their music communicates on its own terms.

As the band told Zeen fanzine;

    "we play instrumental music without a singer but no singer/no lyrics does not equal nothing to say - we're not interested in plinking away on maudlin, passive, pretty little melodies that are largely hollow with nothing to support it - so we try to provide folks with triggers - create some sort of context - and that comes in the form of written tracts included in godspeed records, film projections that we put together for live shows as well as the found sound shit that gets weaved into the overall godspeed narratives and ends up as part of a godspeed recording"

Around 1993 or so a group of musicians began playing together in Montreal.  When the band was looking to book shows for an American tour in 1997 they sent kranky a copy of their limited edition LP released on the fledgling Constellation label.    We were taken after one listen, got in touch with the band and in 1998 kranky released a compact disc version of the debut album (with added music the group recorded) called F# A# ∞.


The intial godspeed show in Chicago attracted an audience of maybe twenty-five people.  As the band proceeded to tour, more and more people discovered godspeed you black emperor!  With a rhythm section of two percussionists and two bassists, a total of three guitarists and members playing cello and violin, the group gave listeners both sweep and momentum.  And as godspeed traversed the country in their old school bus they got better and better as a live band. The commercial success and notoriety godspeed earned they got listener by listener, live and onstage.

The band's second release was an EP called Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada, released on CD EP by kranky and on vinyl by Constellation.  Centered around a taped rant in Providence Rhode Island by one Blaise Bailey Finnegan III, the EP got even more attention than the debut.  The group's considered decision to avoid many of the vanities of the publicity process; posed promotional photographs, interviews with glossy magazines and the like baffled those who couldn't or wouldn't concentrate on describing the music for their readers.  The band operated on a consensus basis, with no egotistical frontperson or outrageous antics to focus on, many of the standard operating procedures of the music press were non-applicable to godspeed you black emperor!  (Oh yeah, that exclamation point tends to move around - get used to it).

The band's double CD epic, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (again released by kranky on compact disc and Constellation on vinyl) came out early in the new millenium.

Simon Reynolds got it right when he wrote in Artbyte that:

    "What godspeed mourn is the withering away of the utopian imagination, the way people seem reconciled to living a dreamless existence and the panglobal triumph of what the Situationists called 'the commodity-spectacle society.'
     Ultimately, one can only salute godspeed's courage for risking Bigness - the sheer size of sound, emotion, theme.  If this sometimes opens the floodgates to deluges of grandiosity, it's because godspeed's music dramatizes the internal stuggle within each band member; optimism of the will versus pessimism of the intellect."

Of course, the beauty of music is that each listener can decide for him or herself what, if any, meaning can be found there.  We were lucky enough at kranky to release three great recordings by this band. godspeed you! black emperor continue to record and perform as a band and as the members continue to make great music in a multitude of ensembles.  f# a# ∞, Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada, and Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven are sure to remain of interest to fans and newcomers alike.

kranky titles available
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada
F# A# ∞

external links
Godspeed You Black Emperor! - www.brainwashed.com/godspeed