GY!BE has earned itself a seat in the post-rock pantheon, and for good reason. The Montreal collective, led by guitarist/composer Efrim Menuck, has a score of classic post-rock albums. The band is marked by a bleak, ragged, distorted sound, always aggressively limping to a heroic climax, which inevitably fades once more into droning noise. The opening cut builds a dissonant wall of sound that gives way to a triumphant march, carrying us into “Bosses Hang,” a suite that rounds out the first half of the album. The 15-minute section builds its way into a fantastically cathartic climax in Part III. Then again, the drones on “Bosses Hang” are quite repetitive, and runs for fifteen minutes; if you have leftover study drugs from exam season, you might need them to get through it.
While the first half is standard-fare GY!BE, the second half of the album is some of their greatest work. “Fam/famine” effectively mixes ragged drones with a drumline that sounds more like an Elvin Jones solo than traditional post-rock fare. The jazzy drumming is coated in slow drone and, towards the end, shimmering violin that sounds like watching a sunset through a dead forest.
The highlight of the album is “Anthem for No State.” A flowing chorus of violins builds a hopeful yet wounded mood with glimmers of upper registers adding a wonderful texture of lightness to the piece. Tension builds with quickening pace; it drops off, cutting to distorted slide guitar reprising the violin line in all but timbre. The reprise is gradually moved into lower and lower registers, until a quick resolution is drowned out by discordant noise. Then emerges a forceful build over a furious triplet-pocked waltz, which resolves into a pulsed waltz, over which violins shriek and soar. The album closes by juxtaposing slowing violin lines with a reprise of the triplets, which fade to a fuzzy sigh, and then silence. This is one of their most compellingly beautiful pieces; the music really does sound like an anthem for no state. So, does the album match up to what is expected of a post-rock giant? Probably. At least it’s better than their last two efforts.
Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor Label: Constellation Records. Top Tracks: Anthem for No State, Fam/Famine. 44 minutes.