Thursday, 25 October 2012

Album review: GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

Highlights: Mladic, We Drift Like Worried Fire

I believe that writing a book about this album would be a lot easier than trying to come up with a reasonable review. There’s just so much happening here – and yet its drony, repetitive textures might swish past you without leaving any serious impression. It’s pretty – yet never overwhelmingly so, and quite often self-consciously chaotic. It’s expansive and it’s monumental – and yet it’s very calm, quiet, almost unpretentious. Let’s be honest: compared to stuff like The Seer, Allelujah! is tame, smug noodling.

While I have always had a great deal of respect for Godspeed You! Black Emperor, there has never been any passionate love. So I’ll have to admit that I didn’t particularly miss them these ten long years. And even if I did, there was always a good chance to return to, say, Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven! (awful titles, guys! – like The Flaming Lips with no acid wit), and discover a few new twists, touches and tricks previously overlooked.

Still, there’s no question that it’s good to have them back. ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is just what you would expect from the band. Drony, dense, minimalist (in its broadest, loosest sense), well-honed and thought to death. Layers and layers of slow-burning, but intense instrumentation and meticulous musical ideas (ten years is ten years). The two shorts (6-plus and 8-plus minutes each) are lovely, ambient and uneventful, but there’s no denying the charming, beguiling monstrosity of the two centerpieces, “Mladic” and “We Drift Like Worried Fire”. Both are 20 minutes long and both have all one could need from a Godspeed You! song. Lots of brilliant little subtleties, lots of overpowering violin crescendos and delightful guitar arpeggios.  

‘Allelujah! is a worthy come-back, no doubt. It will work equally well both for fans and for newcomers. As for me, I choose to stick to my line: I appreciate this album, I even admire it. I just don’t worship it - which, I'm afraid, is exactly what they ask of you.


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