f#a#* – Godspeed you black emperor


The album – helpfully titled f #a #* – was strikingly cinematic, recalling Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas and Terrence Malick’s films Badlands and Days Of Heaven. Their style of splicing tape recordings of the angry disenfranchised and the mutterings of militias into their music echoes ’60s libertarian outsider
counter-culture. Their use of ”authentic” instruments, field recordings, down home folk forms, and lo-fi acoustic Americana, meanwhile, places Godspeed in the canon of maverick North American folk-artists that includes archivist Harry Smith, composer/carpenter Harry Partch and singer Tom Waits. Yet they produce more self-consciously beautiful, solely instrumental music than those artists, and arguably also lack their humour and warmth. Most of their songs follow the same formula: start slow and quiet, then go really fast and loud.

It’s certainly true that much of their music is based around dynamic sonic crests and swells, but the sheer scale of their thunderously loud sound means they generally get away with it. Godspeed You Black Emperor!

are certainly unique in modern rock music. Instrumental music with traces of contemporary classical is rarely drooled over, but Godspeed’s alternative idealism, combined with the sonic assault of a Japanese noise band, makes for a strangely seductive proposition.

Oh and they’ve disbanded. The name, incidentally, comes from a Japanese biker gang. Or rather, a translation of ”Buraku Empororu”, a film by Japanese director Mitsuo Yanagimachi.


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