Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a Canadian experimental, post-rock group from Montreal, Quebec, one of the greatest bands of the past 15 years, highly influential within the post-rock genre. The band formed around 1994 with three members (Efrim Menuck, Mauro Pezzente and Mike Moya), but its lineup has changed frequently. The group has had as many as twenty members at one time, but has tended to settle down to a group of nine. Their name was taken from a little known 1976 Japanese black-and-white documentary by director Mitsuo Yanagimachi, which follows the exploits of a Japanese biker gang, the Black Emperors (IMDb).
In 1994, GYBE recorded their first self-released cassette, "All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling", limited to just 33 copies. Since then, they released three full-length studio albums and one EP, at Constellation records and Kranky. Working with orchestrated arrangements, the nine-piece group created tracks with wide dynamic ranges, a highly evocative use of instrumentation and sounds and uncompromising long form compositions. Each release usually consists of an entire piece divided into movements, mostly between 15 and 25 minutes, sometimes eponymously specified in the liner notes. Their engrossing use of art and visuals in both album packaging and live performances create an enigmatic aura.
There is a strong political component to the band's music. For example, the liner notes to Yanqui U.X.O. describe the song "09-15-00" as "Ariel Sharon surrounded by 1,000 Israeli soldiers marching on al-Haram Ash-Sharif & provoking another Intifada," and the back cover of that album depicts the relationships of several major record labels to the military-industrial complex. Several of their songs also incorporate voice samples which express political sentiments, most notably "The Dead Flag Blues" (on F♯A♯∞) and "BBF3" (on Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada).
GYBE announced an indefinite hiatus in 2003. Members of the group have formed a number of side-projects, including A Silver Mt. Zion, Fly Pan Am and Set Fire to Flames.
More Info/Listen: Official Website, Last.fm, MySpace, Wikipedia, MiC (greek)
Labels: Constellation Records, Kranky
Live performances: archive.org
Discography (more info/downloads here)
1. All lights fucked on the hairy amp drooling (1994, cassette)
Released in 1994 when GYBE was a three-member group, this is a very rare album. If anybody has this one, please post the link!
1. drifting intro open
2. shot thru tubes
3. three three three
4. when all the furnaces exploded
7. son of a diplomat, daughter of a politician
8. glencairn 14
10. loose the idiot dogs
11. diminishing shine
12. random luvly moncton blue(s)
1. 333 frames per second
2. revisionist alternatif wounds to the hair-cut hit head
3. ditty for moya
4. buried ton
5. and the hairy guts shine
7. deterior 23
8. all angels gone
9. deterior 17
10. deterior three
11. devil's in the church
12. no job
13. dress like shit
14. perfumed pink corpses from the lips of ms. celine dion
2. F♯A♯∞ (1997)
Initially limited to 500 numbered copies, GYBE's debut studio album was released by Constellation records in 1997 and a year later it was re-issued by Kranky records, remastered and changed in some areas (and with different artwork). One of the best albums of the nineties!
The band contributed the song "East Hastings" to the UK film 28 Days Later, directed by Danny Boyle, though the song was heavily edited; this was an unusual step for the ensemble. However, the track is excluded from the CD soundtrack, due to group ethics.
Tracks (1997 release, Constellation):
1. Side A: nervous, sad, poor
2. Side B: bleak, uncertain, beautiful
Tracks (1998 release, Kranky):
1. The Dead Flag Blues: the dead flag blues (intro); slow moving trains; the cowboy; (outro)
2. East Hastings: nothing's alrite in our life / dead flag blues (reprise); the sad mafioso; drugs in tokyo / black helicopter
3. Providence: divorce & fever; dead metheny; kicking horse on brokenhill; string loop manufactured during downpour; j.l.h. outro
3. Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada (E.P., 1999)
Slow riot: two words that describe perfectly the music of GYBE. Two tracks, thirty minutes of top class music! The front of the album contains Hebrew characters, in transliterated form, "tohu va vohu" (תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ), a phrase used in the Old Testament and carries no agreed-upon meaning among theological circles. It could mean "wasteland" or "nothingness". The back of the EP contains a diagram with instructions in Italian on how to make a molotov cocktail.
4. Lift yr. skinny fists like antennas to heaven (2000)
This is my favourite GYBE album. A double album, absolutely brilliant from the beginning to the end. Beautiful artwork by William Schaff (and here).
1. Storm: lift yr. skinny fists, like antennas to heaven; gathering storm; "welcome to barco am/pm..." [l.a.x.; 5/14/00]; cancer towers on holy road hi-way
2. Static: terrible canyons of static; atomic clock; chart #3; world police and friendly fire; [...+the buildings they are sleeping now]
3. Sleep: murray ostril: "...they don't sleep anymore on the beach..."; monheim; broken windows, locks of love pt. III. / 3rd part
4. Antennas to Heaven: moya sings "baby-o"; edgyswingsetacid; [glockenspiel duet recorded on a campsite in rhinebeck, n.y.]; "attention...mon ami...fa-lala-lala-la-la..." [55-St.Laurent]; she dreamt she was a bulldozer, she dreamt she was alone in an empty field; deathkamp drone [antennas to heaven...]
5. Yanqui U.X.O. (2002)
This is the most recent GYBE album, recorded by Steve Albini in 2002. Yanqui is the Spanish word for Yankee. The liner notes also refer to Yanqui as a "multinational corporate oligarchy", while "U.X.O." stands for "unexploded ordnance". The packaging of the album contains an arrow diagram purporting to represent the links between four major record labels (AOL Time-Warner, BMG, Sony, Vivendi Universal) and various arms manufacturers. This chart accompanied a photograph of falling bombs. One more excellent album, hopefully not the last one!
2. 09-15-00 (cont.)
3. rockets fall on rocket falls
5. motherfucker=redeemer (cont.)
Check the comments to listen before you buy.