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CD review: Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Four stars

I’m reviewing a new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album. That’s a wonderfully bizarre sentence to write after almost a decade spent believing 1. the Canadian collective would never return, and 2. even after reuniting to tour in late 2010, the intense instrumentalists surely wouldn’t record new material.

Technically, the two 20-minute compositions comprising the bulk of Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! aren’t brand new; they’ve been part of the live experience since 2003. But surely, even die-hards who’ve downloaded dozens of live Godspeed recordings from the free Live Music Archive (archive.org) will welcome official studio takes (even as they still pine for a proper version of beloved unreleased cut “Steve Reich”).

Way more Yanqui than Skinny (think: crashing cataclysms, not multi-movement collages), Allelujah opens dramatically, with “Mladic” (formerly known as “Albanian”) piling up ambient bits until they fuse into a massive, Eastern-flavored melody that’ll shake you by the shoulders. A short (by Godspeed standards) drone then serves as a cleansing interlude, followed by “We Drift Like Worried Fire” (né “Gamelan”), a quiet-strings/distorted-guitars sound clash with a hypnotic riff at its core. Then comes a second thought-purging drone, and then … you hit repeat, nudge up the volume and say Allelujah!, for one of music’s most welcome reappearances.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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