It is, for the most part, thrilling, a surge of energy and a satisfying release...
Before the din there is a lull, a pause charged with nervous anticipation. Then, from the hushed center of the church attic jumble of instruments, a bearded man breaks the silence with a truly unexpected sound. Godspeed You Black Emperor! speaks! What it says is, “We’re sorry about the delay…we had some technical problems.” Is clapping appropriate yet?
These “technical problems” are the reason the capacity crowd was queuing outside for an extra hour. The promise of a mysterious and magical evening with Montreal’s most categorically uncategorizable band and a rumored Lou Barlow-sighting are only slight relief from December’s frigid temperatures. No worries though. All it takes to pacify the bespectacled indie kids is a shuffling set by the tumbleweed that is Will Oldham and an official GYBE! apology. The skinny fists are ready for raising, just bring on a reason.
So the nine players take the stage, and lit only by the flickering image of a sign reading “explode,” they blow-up the standard musical form, and begin building their own from the scraps and wreckage. From beneath the thread of cello, come the orchestrated chaos of one hammered and one bowed bass, and a tribal drum thump swelling to crescendo. Ten minutes later, we are somewhere else altogether. Although the musicians hardly move, the music is always shifting. ‘Storm’ swirls, a blustery twister, gaining an ominous speed, then all at once calmed into eerie stillness, before stretching and spinning out again, tracing the edges of ‘Amazing Grace’, before rising to a trilling apex and dissipating altogether.
It’s a trick they can do repeatedly…and they do. With each 15-minute opus, as Fatboy Slim put it, they build it up, tear it down. It is, for the most part, thrilling, a surge of energy and a satisfying release. How quickly will this new manifesto yellow and fade? How soon may this mountainous music become monotonous? Well, like sex, we may need some new positions, soon.
If Blur are in fact shite, and Mogwai can prove it, if GYBE! is the one grinding fist into palm, grunting “yeah” under it’s breath, then a new challenge: now that you’ve proved you can do longer, let’s see you do shorter. We’ve heard up and down, now how about trying sideways. Good! Luck! Godspeed!