Godspeed You! Black Emperor play tonight with Total Life at Showbox SoDo, 1700 1st Avenue, 652-0444, showboxpresents.com. 8 P.M. $25 adv./$28 DOS
When you listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, you see things. You see giant buildings crumbling to the ground. You see images of black holes opening in space. If you’ve watched 28 Days Later, you probably see zombies who can run way too fast.
GY!BE are self-proclaimed film junkies, so it’s no surprise the music the group creates is evocative of these post-apocalyptic scenes. The group took their name from an obscure Japanese documentary on biker gangs from the 70s and have been known to use multiple 16mm film projectors during performances. Even though the group has no vocals, they construct narratives far more powerful than many bands manage with words. The trick are all those masterfully dynamic instrumentals. They build you up and build you up and then plunge you into chaos. Listen to “Moya” (above) and try to resist getting chills.
The cryptic samples the group uses (random garbled radios sermons, man-on-the-street interviews with agitated citizens, etc.) give these musical narratives a vague anarcho framework that suits the haze and mystery that surrounds the group. When GY!BE released their most recent album ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, they did so with absolutely zero hype or fanfare. Ten years after the last record, an agonizing wait for fans, a new Godspeed record magically appeared in October of 2012 at a concert in Boston, completely unannounced.
Notoriously anti-interview, the group agreed to a rare email Q&A with The Guardian last year, which to this day is one of my favorite band interviews of all time. Read the whole glorious thing for golden nuggets like:
“[N]ow we all live in harder times, now a whole lot of bands react to the current heaviness by privileging the party times, like some weird Scientology will-to-power bullshit, hit that hi-hat with a square’s fist until we all make it to heaven, until Sunday morning’s bringdown. Self-conscious good vibes like love-handles poking through some 22-year-old’s American Apparel T-shirt at some joint where you can only dance once you pay a $10 cover charge just to listen to some internet king’s iPod.”