Day 347 – #139. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F#A#∞

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F#A#∞ Album Review

This album came out in 1996? For real?

I’m having more and more of those experiences lately. So much has changed in the last two and a half decades of the recording industry – in the way of technology, distribution methods, consumption – that few records seem ‘dated’ anymore.

If anything, with the resurgence of 80s and 90s music as an influence on electronic and pop music, intentionally dating something is the new ‘dated.’

Which is why Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s F#A#∞ makes so much sense: the infinity symbol, also known as the lemniscate, is right there in the album’s title.

If you were to say it out loud, I guess it’d be “F-sharp, A-sharp, lemniscate.” Or, perhaps, “F-sharp, A-sharp, infinity.” Doesn’t exactly leap off the tongue – this record won’t do that. It’s a slow-churning process of an album, one that works on a couple of different levels, as all of GYBE’s work seems to do.

Should you decide to put it on in the background, as I often do at work just to have something to break up the silence, you may feel uncomfortable, or even unnerved.

You may recognize the song “East Hastings,” as a heavily rearranged and shortened version appeared on John Murphy’s soundtrack for the film 28 Days Later.

Without being snarky or elitist, Godspeed’s music is not accessible. Like, at all. F#A# is made up of only three tracks, and each exceeds 16+ minutes, with closer “Providence” stretching nearly a half hour.
These are not digestible singles. These are mammoth slow-burns, led by long periods of guitar-led instrumentals, sometimes sparse drum sections reminiscent of world music, and meant to be experienced on a different level than ‘conventional’ music as we know it.

I want to make a distinct point here though, just because it’s been killing me since October: I saw this group live here in DC, opening for Nine Inch Nails, and they were entirely disappointing. They jammed for 45 minutes and then unceremoniously left the stage. No interaction with the audience whatsoever, no attempt to engage or participate. It was one of the oddest shows I’ve seen, and I was left underwhelmed.

Why is it that long form music like this doesn’t translate well live? Is it because the magic is on the record rather than in front of an audience?

One way or another, F#A# is a daunting record from a band that practically dares you to listen to them.

From F#A#∞, this is “East Hastings” –

Standout tracks: Well, there’s only three songs…
Weakest track: …Well, there’s only three songs…

RIYL: Songs as long as sitcom episodes.


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