Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

When I first started writing this here blog, the idea was that each post would highlight a way of finding new music. There are a million-and-a-half avenues for discovering bands these days, and I thought it would helpful to sift through them and talk up the ones I found most fruitful. I still think about that each time I sit down to write a post, but I can’t deny that I’ve slipped in this area. (My self-control in the face of Super Bowl halftime shows and “Gangnam Style” is pretty much non-existent.)

With that shortfall in mind, I’d like to keep up the momentum I generated from yesterday’s posthere’s another link to the fantastic 70 Day Weekend — by dedicating this post to the people who are, without question, the reason I’m enjoying Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s new album so much. In this case, though, it’s not about who recommended Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! Instead, I’d like to talk about the bands that paved the way for my appreciation of an album I might not have given a fair shake a few years ago — bands that have opened my eyes to the glorious, noisy rock being made here in Richmond and elsewhere.

I’m talking about groups like White LacesThe Diamond Center, The Snowy Owls, and Hoax Hunters, among others. Before I started seeking these bands out, noise had never been my niche. Fuzz wasn’t my fave, psych wasn’t my sanctum, nor was punk my predilection. But song by song, show by show, I’ve learned that linear can be just as fun as cyclical. I’ve learned that melodies emerging from a fuzzy haze sound especially sweet. That out of a long, weighty drone comes flashes of light and color. That building up and breaking down are two sides of the same coin.

Without these experiences, I don’t know if Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! would have done a single thing for me. But as it stands now, I can’t stop thinking about it — about the twists, turns and contrasting moods, and how stormy it feels, with brief moments of clear sky surrounded by menacing cloud cover. But as dark and dissonant as things get, and as winding as the road may be, the album’s 2 mammoth 20-minute compositions still feel irresistibly linear, like a story you have to see through to its conclusion, no matter where it might lead. I’ve yet to go running with Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! but am absolutely dying to. I feel like there’s an excellent chance of me blacking out, jogging until my iPod dies and waking up in a field in Louisa County. I can’t wait.

Quick epilogue: I had a really fun conversation about Godspeed You! Black Emperor last weekend with a friend who recently saw the group in North Carolina. And while he was sharing which tracks from previous albums I should check out next, I felt extraordinarily lucky. Lucky for the chance to dive into a trove of material that sounded so rewarding, and lucky to live in the same city as such talented people who make such affecting music.

Give the whopper of a first track off Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! a listen below. If it doesn’t hit you right, take a quick spin around the links in the third paragraph of this post and see if it doesn’t change your mind.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor — “Mladic” [Spotify/iTunes]

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