Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress

by Brian Lange. Rating:6 Release Date:2015-03-31

Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, like 2012’s Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!, is a four-track LP that barely harks back to the epic length ballads GY!BE are known for. 

Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! was GY!BE’s first new record for 10 years. Along with their new found rebirth comes some disappointment. It is evident that founding member Efrim Menuck’s influence over the GY!BE sound is taking hold, as Asunder starts out sounding a lot more like a Thee Silver Mount Zion release, Efrim’s other band which he originally formed with the desire to be able to write and score music properly. It didn’t take, so it evolved into a noisy clusterfuck of structureless wailing harmonics. 

While the new GY!BE record doesn’t have any lyrics, you get a sense of something missing. There seems to be a laziness with this four-track LP, which clocks in at barely 40 minutes.

No longer will you feel the grandiose energy of F# A# ∞ (1997) or the conceptually rich Lift Your Tiny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000). Completely absent are those much loved and engrossing recordings of interviews with crazy old men on the street talking about speeding tickets or Coney Island. 

If the two records of the past three years were combined, that would be quite a respectable record, but it feels as though the quality of work suffers for the sake of new releases. Even the two-track, 30-minute Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada (1999) would leave me complacent for the next 10 years if the band could find its equal.

That having said, the droney atmospheres and discomfort are still there. You get the sense that a good 50 per cent of the record is this constant noise with little variation, which definitely teeters on the fence of being engrossing with heightened discomfort or just annoyingly like filler. Whether it be apropos to compare the old work with the new or not, it is impossible not to. 

GY!BE’s hiatus took with it some of the more orchestral qualities. The buildup of noise with no discernable instruments feels overbearing instead of complimentary. The new material seems to lack emotive qualities. One is left wondering where the other half of the record is. 

Still, when you consider GY!BE’s place in post-rock history, they undoubtedly rank up there as deities, towering beyond others of the ilk. It is hard to place a record that doesn’t resonate in the same way that some of the early records did. Considering that a significant part of this is likely to be a person’s desire for nostalgia, one has to learn to accept that, historically, very few musicians, if any, have been able to maintain a constant through-line that endures the test of time.  

GY!BE embarks on a number of European dates this fall, including a special All Tomorrow’s Parties performance curated by none other than Mogwai. If you’re lucky enough to get to the show, you might be in for one of the best live experiences you’ve ever been to. Their reunion and subsequent North American tour back in 2012 remains the most amazing show I have had the privilege of attending to date. You may just want to catch them live.

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