It would be easy for some to dismiss the work of Godspeed You Black Emperor! as soundtrack music, but there’s a bit more going on here than meets the ear: more than a sonic collage of moving textures and moods, more than a backdrop for some unfilmed motion picture shot inside a destitute soul. This rather ambitious-sounding release from the nine-piece Canadian collective contains tracks culled from several past years’ work, on which GYBE! exploits its gift for understatement with gently meandering sound impressions. Mixing samples of apocalyptic dialogue with interferences from dual percussion, violin, cello, glockenspiel, bagpipes, and guitars, the group blends unlikely instruments together to create eerie textures. In the opening track, “The Dead Flag Blues,” a dark introductory monologue describes the nuances of a catastrophe, while undercurrents of reverb-laden guitars rumble below the narrator’s murmurings, later augmented by the commentary of a solitary violin. The shorter second track, “East Hastings,” cleverly synthesizes found sounds such as street noise, bagpipe interspersions, tape loops, and acoustic renderings. But the pièce de résistance is the third and final track, the nearly 30-minute “Providence,” a climactic and epic piece featuring lovely violin, cello, and glockenspiel dialogue prefacing a driving percussion and guitar duel. While it’s not entirely clear which genre GYBE! is aiming toward, the group’s ambiguity advances its quest for a perfect sonic landscape, undefined and unencumbered by conventional boundaries.

—Amy Domingues

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