Opening up the Hebrew-inscribed cover of the latest offering from post-rock giants Godspeed You Black Emperor (a name that should strike terror into the hearts of the faithless everywhere), the first thing one sees is a passage from the book of Jeremiah. It actually seems quite appropriate. If anything were to accompany the apocalyptic words of the “weeping prophet”, it’d be Godspeed.
Now, when I say “apocalyptic”, I’m not referring to bombings and Y2K mumbo-jumbo. Rather, I’m referring to “Old Testament, fear of the Lord, burning the priests of Baal” apocalyptic. Only with a band like Godspeed could you have liner notes that read “I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful field was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and before His fierce anger” and not sound like a paranoid street preacher or a millenial cult.
Godspeed’s previous release, F#A# Infinity Symbol, was a breathtaking journey across a twisted, broken landscape — an incredibly cinematic piece that lived up to all of the critical hype that had surrounded it. Now this juggernaut of a group has returned to the land of their birth with this 2 song EP. Recorded between tours, this record lacks much of the studio polish and trickery that filtered throughout the album. What we’re left with is a much rawer and more honest sound that still manages to be more refined and emotional than nearly anything I’ve heard in the past 6 months.
Technically consisting of 2 songs, Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada is in a sense a single work. Godspeed revels in alternating between delicate passages of strings, bells, and vibes and torrential downpours of guitar, drums, and bass — and they do so with no apparent effort or loss of momentum. At times reminiscent of Labradford and even Rachel’s, this EP reaches beyond into the realms of Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson’s Children of Nature soundtrack and even composers like Henryk Gorecki and Arvo Part.
Godspeed is also one of the few bands that can add samples and spoken word passages, without trying to sound artsy-fartsy or political. This just adds to the cinematic-ness of their movie, because such passages might come off as lines of dialog, if they weren’t so real. Especially poignant are samples from a coversation with a Blaise Bailey Finnegan the 3rd, recorded after Mr. Finnegan’s run-in with a judge and a parking ticket.
Finnegan regales us with his anti-government ramblings, sounding like a pissed-off Michigan militiaman, while Godspeed’s soundtrack waits in the background, slowly sweeping in to provide a gentle counterpoint to Finnegan’s harsh soapbox. And when he recites his poetry (which must be heard for its paranoia to be believed) Godspeed’s musical vision becomes all that much clearer. This is true pre-millenial tension, folks.