A Review of Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress

Played in the Key of F-Minor, in 3 movements

  • Photo courtesy Godspeed You! Black Emporor

Listening directions:
Combine with 6 oz. apricot brandy, 2 oz. lemon sour, 1 vinyl LP, 2 electroacoustic transducers, 800-3500Hz, preferably vint. b/w 1973-’86, 1 sheltered room bathed in sunlight, 40mins.

The following review is to be consumed under strict guidelines:

It is a review for the album Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress, the sixth studio release of Montreal post-rock heroes Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The six hundred words to follow should be read sitting, in an upright position, preferably outdoors, or at least in a sundrenched area. Put your arms at your side. Stretch your fingers out. Try not to breathe. Have a peer stand in front of you, holding the review to your face, but not blocking the sun. Keep the sun on your legs, and your arms. Read the article slowly, considering every syllable, every space and period and dash. Imagine the words falling slowly across your body. Listen to the sounds brewing below your open window. Listen to the way they meld with the sounds flowing from speakers. Blink your eyes.

Consider the following:

Godspeed took a ten year hiatus (2002-2012), returning with ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, a collection of largely pre-hiatus work. A large portion of the material on Asunder dates back to those days, the rest being worked out in live sets over the last few years. Fans had nicknamed the new tracks “Behemoth.” Without being unoriginal, they are most assuredly Godspeed, dripping with the group’s trademark themes.

The band’s members are notably ingrained in the Montreal scene, making up a number of bands including A Silver Mount Zion, Maica Mia, Set Fire to Flames, etc. They also operate a number of venues, community action groups, collectives, and a recording studio, in and around Greater Montreal. You may notice members on the street, or in the park with their kids, or at a bar nursing a drink.

The album premiered on March 31. The band will tour Europe shortly.

Movement ! (Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’) (00:00 – 10:28)

They are back. Without hesitation, without pause; no rising action, all action. Blown up as if by divine-dynamite, soaring as if elated, heavenly.

Heaven, exploding, riding across tsunami waves toward doomed cities of sinners. Huddled masses consumed by streaks of flame across a black sky.

They are back and they did miss us, clearly, and we, them. Kissing the air above them, breathing in Spring in Montreal and breathing out Heaven, never asunder but instead aflame, with light, with their own light.

They are back and they had been missed. Like always, dipping away back into themselves, into Montreal, away from their sounds and towards others. But again, returning. Thank god(speed), returning.

I have been waiting for this, anticipating this, but I did not anticipate this. Roaring with more reverence for sound than ever, with absolutely no fear of dying or flying or getting old. Without patience, but with as much respect for silence as ever before.

Explosions. Intense, purposeful, like encroaching steps, like the coming of war.

But then.

Retreating. Slowing. Calming my anxiety, swilling to not a stop, but a slow whirr, an itch, an ellipsis, straining…

Movement 2 (Lamb’s Breath//Asunder, Sweet) (10:28 – 26:36)

Almost Sunn 0))), almost Swans. But not. Breathing in, and out, but rasping, ragged inhalation. Humming quietly. Explosive life replaced by gnawing dread, a growing tumour, an unkempt wound. Noise, discontent, chaos restrained, a stirring deep down somewhere, something is getting the better of me.

The drone is wet with apocalypse.

Three movements. Essentially. Maybe like life. Like their indefinite hiatus – springing back, unfinished business, words left unspoken. The gnawing of an itch unscratched. Can’t quite shake a feeling. The drone calling behind everything, like tinnitus, the loudest thing in a loud room, gnawing, omnipresent, echoing, “Where? Where?”
Where is my drink?

The shortest Godspeed record yet, just as patient but just as controlled, completely aware of the audience, me, I, sitting here, listening to this record, consuming this brandy, which really is quite lovely, at this time of the night, with the air just getting warmer, and the brandy just swishing in my cup, and the drone just droning, just building, with short clips of voices I think I have heard but am not entirely sure, of strings recorded in a large room whose walls I can feel quiver as the shrieks of violins and cellos crawl and drag across and up and around.
There is movement. Unsure, tentative; taking steps, climbing upward.

Movement 3 (Piss Crowns Are Trebled) (26:36 – ∞)

The word rebirth isn’t the right word but it’s the first that comes to mind. Flowing grass and strangely salty but not bitter tears flowing in the best way out of very wet eyes gazing out of the window onto the beautiful city this music was born in and into and unbelievably amazed to be alive and not an ant or a beetle or a dead person or some similarly regrettable position. To be alive and hearing the smashing raging swords of this record pierce through these speakers and out over my empty glass and into my ears and down into my stomach to shake my insides with such relentless explosion of distorted guitars and groaning organs and screaming bells and whistles and alarms and whirls and swirling masses ever growing and then subsiding and slipping silently away from me as the record quietly, finally, stops spinning.

My glass is somehow even more empty.
Great fucking record, though.

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