I saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor live Thursday, on a show part of their first tour in nearly ten years. They haven't exactly been broken up, but rather pursuing different projects, one of which is/was whatever name Silver Mt. Zion is going under today. Anyhow, the show was at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. I picked that day to go as it seemed to be a more, well, epic place to see GY!BE at, rather than Brooklyn's Masonic Temple, which seemed to be a pretty mediocre venue. I was also excited by the idea of a seated show simply because when I saw Silver Mt. Zion live, there was no crowd movement beyond just a small bit of swaying. And oh what a mistake my judgement was. Now, make all the "hipsters don't dance" jokes you want, but it's not like this is music that makes you want to do much but stare dead ahead and sometimes cry. And I know the Catholics have a reputation for being self-hating about as much as the Jews do, but holy hell even we don't use hardwood pews built in the 19th century to, apparently, keep Catholics awake during 4 AM Latin masses before going back to their jobs as chimneysweeps. It's saying something when the only padded locale was the kneeler. The pews ended up turning into an endurance test, with people evacuating the venue at the end of -- and occasionally, in the middle of -- every single song.
So, in effect, for three hours, Godspeed tortured every young person in NYC who made it to that show. I say three hours because the opening act was so abysmal the only thing to concentrate on was the pain. I have a standing blog-policy to not shit on anyone directly, so I won't mention his name, but holy hell if your music relies on three seconds of ethereal strumming repeated through an entire four song and the only other aspect to it is the lyrics, at least make sure the people in the back can make some goddamn sense of them. I'm not saying the people in the front fared any better, but what I heard was an old Flying Saucer Attack tape in an old boombox in a tunnel.
Godspeed themselves were great. It's hard to speak about the actual music because it was, well, exactly what how one would think they sound live. A little more squeaky and dissonant, but when they played "Moya" it only took me a few seconds to realize "oh, hey, that's 'Moya.'" They put the music that is on the album together on stage and sounded wonderful. Now, along with the band itself -- which I couldn't see from my pew -- they used a video artist. They had four film projectors set up to hit two separate areas, letting the video overlap itself occasionally, and a whole lot of film loops. Every song used different loops and the artist used them to different effects. Occasionally, they were just played straight. Sometimes, as in the video for "Monheim" below (thanks setlist.fm!) the physical loops would be sped up, slowed down, and burned. The burning effect was especially spectacular, albeit a bit hard to make out in the video above (which you should turn up to full screen and 1080p because damn if it is not an awesome video.) Below is a part of "The Sad Mafioso" shot by a different person and clearly using a different style of video.
So, the show was amazing and I really hope they come around again and I hope everyone who sat in the front has recovered their hearing by now. Also, I now own an official Godspeed You! Black Emperor t-shirt. The concept of the fact makes me giggle, a lot.
Yesterday, The Awl posted something awesome that I will reproduce below. The trick is to play Mr. Beck and Godspeed simultaneously and you get a through-the-looking-glass version of what happens when you cue Dark Side of the Moon up with The Wizard of Oz:
Considering how fond GY!BE are of bizarre, impassioned ramblings, I'm surprised there aren't more of these. I managed to find another one on YouTube however, also using "Moya" but with a different Glenn Beck track, and some delightful cover art:
I saw Iron Man 2 this weekend and enjoyed the hell out of it. It had pretty much everything missing from the first film: a superpowered villain from the get-go, alcoholism, Sam Rockwell … I could go on. Now, it wasn't a ground-breaking film that redefined how we look at crazy men in costumes and all such jazz I'd like to pretend people expect out of these films. No. It was explosions and witty dialogue and a drunk billionaire urinating in a giant metal suit to please a crowd. My expectations were met and, at the exact moment when Mickey Rourke (in a delightfully dead-on Russian accent) says the phrase “this software is sheet,” exceeded.
So, I got home and decided to read some Iron Man comics. It was suggested I start during Warren Ellis' “Extremis” arc. Right in issue one, something caught my eye. If you're not familiar with his craft, you should know that Ellis has worn his cultural interests on his sleeve throughout his entire career – Transmetropolitan's Spider Jerusalem, for instance, would repeatedly (and sloppily) quote the Pixies' lyrics as dialogue. The scene below, occuring at a Stark International complex in “Coney Island, NY” (my relationship to which I've written about earlier,) was a bit more unexpected:
If you're a fan of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, you'll recognize that as a rephrased version of the monologue which opens “Sleep” on Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven:
Again, considering this is Warren Ellis, I'm wasn't too surprised, but it was nice to see a wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of reference. As opposed to, in the next issue or two, having a character parrot out a brief summary of the works of Terence McKenna's. There's something to be said for both subtlety and pleasing the pretension of your audience.
Of the myriad permutations of electronic music which exist, the anarchic breakcore is one of my all-time favorites. Something about the musical equivalent of a loosed jackhammer appeals to the same part of me which fell asleep during all those orchestral events I was taken to as a child. Thanks to YouTube, I can show off a few breakcore-based delights I have found over the years.
For instance, here is some emerging from a bored teenager's face, in the back of a car somewhere in Canada:
Or perhaps ironically mixed into an odd old synth demo:
Or the ne plus ultra of mashed-up absurdity – used to remix a Godspeed You! Black Emperor track: