Music » Livewire

Godspeed You Black Emperor!

Sunday, September 30, at the Beachland.

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Montreal's Godspeed You Black Emperor! is on a mission to change the world. On the front lines of what it must see as the serrated machine of contemporary culture, GYBE! is a continuous, eloquent protest against all that's alienating about our world. Interviewing the band is a difficult prospect, as the group has turned the institution of music journalism on its head by keeping a low profile and making the press pay for admission to shows. The band then donates that money to organizations that combat illiteracy. Contextualizing the group -- which has more in common with classical composer Gustav Mahler than anyone else -- somehow misses the point. GYBE! produces some of the most original, haunting, and moving music out there. Acts such as Sigur Ros and Mogwai, both of which stake their claim to minimalist, post-rock soundscapes, are good reference points, but in the end we're talking about an entirely different animal. GYBE! consists of nine seemingly steady members: two guitarists, two bassists, two drummers, a cellist, a violinist, and a "tape master." Because of their improvisational nature and sheer length, the compositions on its latest, double-disc effort, Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven! (each of four tracks clocks in at about 20 minutes), raises the question: "How do they pull this off live?" Guitarist Efrim Menuck has described performances as the equivalent of relay races, with each band member taking cues from the other. To keep track of the music, the band employs charts, and sometimes GYBE! runs grainy video as a backdrop to counterbalance the lack of vocals. If these videos are anything like the macabre imagery on the band's disc jackets, they should prove to be as disturbing as GYBE!'s beautiful, bizarre music.

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