The Wire - 1/99, p.27
Included in Wire's "50 Records Of The Year "
Unknown Contributor Roles: Thea ?; Mauro; Colin ?; Aidan; Efrim .
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death." Few albums begin with such promise and foreboding, but this first full-length from Canadian genius collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor succeeds in the first few moments. F# A# (Infinity) contains three compositions that run the gamut from grotesque to sublime. The term "composition" seems an appropriate one to use as this band does not write songs. Each piece is at least 14 minutes in length, consisting of three to four sections. The band, a nine-member unit consisting of guitar, drums, bass, strings, keyboard, marimbas, and woodwinds, intersperses voice-over narrative with sprawling instrumental melodies. The arrangements move slowly, building from hushed silence to cathartic crescendo and back again. The narratives that accompany the music meditate on the corruption of the American government and the seeming emptiness of the postmodern era. At times, it seems that the music might offer hope, but alternatively, the haunting melodies can serve to emphasize the confusion encountered in these stories. As "Dead Flag Blues," the album's first track, unfolds, the speaker's voice is undercut by a poignant string melody and the piece builds to a beautiful peak. "Dead Flag Blues" is a four-part arrangement in an apparently symphonic pattern. A theme is stated, followed by a quiet interlude out of which the tension builds to disaster/epiphany and finally a quiet reprise of the initial melody is given. The albums second piece, "East Hastings," follows a similar pattern, producing brilliant results. "Providence" is the album's final piece, a bit longer than the others, but lacking the consistency and unity of its counterparts. The music on this album is unique and powerful. One would be hard-pressed to find any imitators of this revolutionary musical form created by GY!BE Its origins are as much avant-classical as they are rock & roll, and the band has achieved a true synthesis of the two forms, expanding them to new boundaries. This music is inherently inexplicable, and this is its beauty. ~ Marc Gilman