Across a dimly lit stage strewn with instruments, pedal boxes, effects stations, highlighted only by reel-to-reel quality film loops, the members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor made their entrance in front of a sold out crowd at The Union Transfer in Philadelphia. There was electricity in the air as enthusiastic fans buzzed about the early vinyl release of Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, the first new studio work from Godspeed You! Black Emperor in 10 years. Having officially dropped on Tuesday (Oct 15th), Philly fans who so desired could pick up a copy from the merch table a solid two weeks before this highly anticipated record hit streets via the band’s own Constellation Records.
Here is one group of performers that neither video, pictures, or reviews ever do justice, but we’ll try anyway! Meshing multiple loop stations with an arsenal of instrumentation and effects, its extremely difficult to discern just how much of this labyrinth of projected sounds is actually created live. Unlike a lot of the shows we cover at Blow The Scene, GS!BE shows are not marked by crowd interaction or how crazy it was when the singer jumped off the balcony, etc..
With Godspeed You! Black Emperor, concertgoers are thrust in an atmosphere that evokes a private and almost primal connection with the sounds and visuals that relentlessly gyrate at the speeds of glacial movements. Crowd calls and any attempt at interaction with this avant-garde chamber group simply echo hollow and fade away. In all fairness, a GY!BE show has more in common with what you might expect from a shared psychedelic experience with or without the drugs. The bass, guitar, percussion, and violin, all become one with pulsating tape loops and poignant visuals fired off from several projectors throughout the performance. No one instrumentalist or instrument makes any significant breaks through the mold and the atmosphere is never penetrated or interrupted once set into motion.
Crescendos stretch across miles, as vast landscapes are constructed and reconstructed before slipping away into time. The tedious film strips that project stark images of urban decay, mugshots, blueprints, and mortality only give way at the conclusion. I couldn’t help but think this is the type of music and performance that would befit a David Lynch film. Here, even human emotion becomes far too abstract to describe in any significant way that will make you either remember a specific moment in the show, or feel like you were there if you missed it. For in the midst of this sold-out crowd, shoulder to shoulder, we were all lost in our own worlds of oblivion, with Godspeed You! Black Emperor temporarily tending the distant light at the end of the tunnel.
Philadelphia’s sludgy stone rock practitioners, Bardo Pond, rounded out the bill for what proved to be one intriguing ride from start to finish.
Blow The Scene Senior Staff Photographer, Dante Torrieri (Useless Rebel Imaging) was on hand to deliver an exclusive set of Godspeed You! Black Emperor photos for your viewing pleasure.