Artist spotlight: Godspeed You! Black Emperor

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Based out of Montreal, QC and formed in 1994, Godspeed You! Black Emperor (GY!BE) is credited with the refinement of one of the most complex and beautiful genres in music, post rock. There are seven members of GY!BE who are all talented and diverse in their skills as musicians.

Shortly after their 2002 album, Yanqui U.X.O., the band went on hiatus until 2012. It was then that their latest album, Allejuah, Don’t Bend Ascend was released. The album was met with extreme praise, earning its place near the top of many Best of 2012 lists.

If the term “post rock” is new to you, it’s probably going to need a bit of an explanation. It’s defined as a subgenre of rock, but what separates it from traditional rock music is the heavy use of rhythms and layers of music. Whereas normally one would think of an electric guitar as a flashy instrument, in post rock it’s used to add texture and repetitive effects that gradually and subtly change as the song progresses. The effect tends to create anticipation and excitement, as well as deep reflection, because it really opens your mind up to strange thoughts. The use of violins and various forms of percussion is not unheard of and ultimately, the more instruments there are in a piece, the crazier it gets.

What remains fascinating and even enchanting about GY!BE is the raw political and emotional distains integrated into their music; even though the parts are subtle, when it clicks, you’ll never forget it. Although traditionally, post rock as a genre doesn’t use vocals any more than another instrument, it’s not uncommon to feature historic monologues that key historical figures have given over the past 50 years. They also tend to go one step further and often write their monologues to convey desperation, or even contempt for how they see the world changing in the worst ways.

However, it has to be said that post rock isn’t a genre for everyone. Some find it rewarding, as it really does require all of your focus to decipher the cryptic noises that you’re hearing. What I find works best for me is getting cozy, having a cup of tea in hand and then listening with headphones, from start to finish, I take in the album. Think of it like complicated movie, you really won’t understand everything the first time through. The subtitles, the anger, even re-examining the album art can change how you think about their music.

GY!BE is currently on a world tour stretching as far as Japan. They have performed recently in Halifax, so seeing them might happen, even if you don’t feel like driving far. If you get the chance, take it. Their shows are a mind-blowing combination of lights, walls of music and intense stage pretenses. It’s been compared to wizards performing magic and with good reason.

To hear my favorite Godspeed songs, check out The Baron’s YouTube page at youtube.com/thebaronsj.