Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress
This review begins with a hat tip to Matthew Guerrieri, whose book The First Four Notes is required reading for those wishing to better understand Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The first four notes which concern us here emanate from the speakers of highly politicized post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor (and yes, that’s where the exclamation point goes). Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress, their latest LP, begins a track called “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!'” with a low-pitched four-note riff that proves to be the material out of which everything in the piece is spun. Like Beethoven’s 5th, it starts with an upbeat that leads to a downbeat thrust of energy. This propels the music forward, seemingly ceaselessly. Like much of GY!BE’s music, it may exhaust the listener, but it never becomes tiresome. Elsewhere, sound is used skilfully; drones, feedback, and improvisatory textural playing are featured. But on “Peasantry …” it is all about the riff, and it is a heavy riff well worth remembering.