New Tunes

I’ve needed fuel these last weeks for long hours of word-craft. Three (relatively) new records have kept me going, moving me to a mood somewhere between dismal and driven.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Yanqui U.X.O.

Nixing the sampled weirdness of their previous efforts (Lift your skinny fist), this Canadian anarchist ensemble puts together a minimalist composition on war, death and humanity’s endless relationship with violence. The opener 09-15-00, alludes to some Zionist aggression that only Canadian anarchist would care about, but the music itself is a ghostly arrangement of reverbed strings and what sounds like a harpsichord. Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls (say that three times fast), is a bit more intense, with a raw steady progression that reminds me of early Philip Glass. When the horns finally kick in (around 12:00) its sounds right out of Koyaanisqatsi. Motherfucker=Redeemer finishes the record. It’s faster than the previous pieces, melding what sounds like Russian dance with building percussion, notching it up continually into an maelstrom of sound, a true tribute to madness.

Explosions in the Sky
Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever

I downloaded their discography, but this record stood out the most. Like Godspeed You Black Emperor and Sigur Ros, Explosions in the sky is a post-rock band. They live up to their namesake with vast minimalist soundscapes (the sky), punctuated by sudden crescendos of drums and amped guitars (explosions). Those who tell the truth explores the binaries of life and death, love and loss, even sampling a short voice over from Thin Red Line in Have You Passed Through this Night. Highlights of the record are Yasmin the Light, which contains one of the most beautiful melody progressions I’ve ever heard; and the Moon is Down, which opens with a soft lullaby and builds into a mournful snaredrum march into the violent dark.

The Decemberists
The Crane Wife

Promising Indie bands migrating to major labels is always cause for concern, but Colin Meloy and his crew of folk rocksters have put together a brilliant record. The title track is three pieces, retelling the old Japanese folk story of a man and the crane he nurses back to health. There’s tremendous sadness in the piece, focusing not on the narrative, but stark winter imagery and bittersweet chord progression. The Island is another standout track, a roaring yarn in three pieces of a desert island, distilling the essence of Robinson Crusoe, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and a thousand other shipwrecked sailors into one epic folksong. A dozens tragedies fill the record’s varied tracks, but Sons and Daughters closes with a tone of hope. It’s a mighty sing-along track, sure to be rousing live performance, envisioning a shining utopia on the water. “Here all the bombs fade away,” indeed.

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