There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor inhabits a universe of its own devising, where triple meters are as likely as duple, being Canadian isn’t an artistic liability, and being a collectively governed nonet doesn’t mean you don’t get anything done. Every other song a bitter elegy for Western civ, the music is aching, ecstatic stuff, responsible for what has to be one of the most sublime convergences of sound and motion in my audio-automotive experience: Driving alone through western Maine to 2000’s double-disc Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, a snowstorm rushing at the windshield like an Exidy starfield, I could almost feel the future arriving as I drifted through each long song. In the past, such post-rockalyptic instrumentals have been wrapped in incendiary rhetoric and overlaid with spoken-word segments that functioned as political found objects. On the new Yanqui U.X.O., the voice-overs have been dispensed with, and though the trappings of protest remain (the titular abbreviation stands for “unexploded ordnance”; the back cover is a diagram that lays bare the entanglements of the military-musical complex), they seem increasingly incidental. When the Montreal-based band played the 9:30 Club a couple of years ago, a fan expressed her preference for the live show over the albums, because it stripped the music of its longueurs. She probably loves the new disc: With Steve Albini at the board and nary a dull bit to be heard, the slow, steady swell from inaudibility to headlong accelerando and crushing crescendo has grown as predictable as the stimulus curve of a 15-minute block of Muzak. But some things just work, time after time, and Godspeed’s patented orchestral build is one of them, whether on Lift’s 23-minute “Static” or Yanqui’s 21-minute “Motherfucker=Redeemer (Part One).” Even so, the shimmering torpor of 1998’s F#A#° and 1999’s Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada sometimes suggested that the Montrealers were the most bedraggled bunch of revolutionaries who’ve ever lived, chucking Molotovs just for the warmth, and the last album was as much a tape collage as a band effort. Yanqui U.X.O., by contrast, sounds less assembled than played—and by a crew that has set the controls for the heart of the sun with all assurances of getting there. —Glenn Dixon