There’s no rush when building a song with nine instruments.
Thunderous Canadian post-rock instrumental group Godspeed You! Black Emperor played a two-hour set to Tipitina’s last night, but it didn’t feel like two hours. Even near its end, the show felt like it was only an introduction to their beautiful, captivating organized noise. Their sound calls for standing completely still in silent reverence, and last night’s crowd obeyed. The overwhelming intensity left me reeling, and when I sat down to write about the show last night, I realized I couldn’t collect my thoughts just yet.
The nine-piece band creates a mood, draining the audience of feeling and providing one of their own. They weave a texture, giving listeners one instrument at a time until the sound swells and borders on sensory overload. The band stepped into the post-rock scene at its peak in 1994, but few other bands have stuck around the way that Godspeed You! Black Emperor continues to, and even fewer can still claim the cult-like following they’ve acquired. Where instrumental bands like Explosions in the Sky and Balmorhea tap into the post-rock sound, Godspeed You! Black Emperor plays it pure and true.
Post-rock demands a different set of values than standard rock. Whereas three to four minutes songs are an effortless listen, post-rock asks for time and patience. Fifteen to 20 minute songs characterize Godspeed You! Black Emperor's three studio albums, with no more than five individual tracks on any record. Those pieces often work together as a part of a larger composition. Typically, a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song becomes most rewarding near its end as its driving, thick tones have time to fall into place and roar. It might’ve taken a half hour to get there with a single song last night, but it was well worth that wait.
Another more concrete reward came to those attending last night’s show: an opportunity to purchase a copy of the band’s first record in 10 years, Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!. Godspeed You! Black Emperor began selling the record exclusively at shows at the start of their 2012 tour on October 1. Until its official European release date on October 15 (everywhere else, October 16), no one else will have a physical copy. As of today, the album can be streamed via The Guardian.