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INAPPROPRIATEPLANK

Art, Life & Earth. THROUGH THE EYES OF A DEAF SNOWBOARDING MUSIC NUT.

Tag Archives: godspeed

9/10 ALIENATING, TENSE RESTRAINT

One of the most underrated  albums this side of punk rock. Cited by PJ Harvey as one of her all time favourite LPs and by Godspeed! & Mogwai as a massive influence on their conceptions.

This is a bleak, desolate LP of angular dissonance that Gang Of Four would be proud of with occasional, unexpected slabs of savage power piled on top. Abrasive layers of grating geometric guitar drag the tension up, threatening to unleash hell at any point before sinking back into the mist. It’s that constant refusal to fully let rip when you most expect it that makes this album. It ratchets up the tension levels, awkward structural pauses leave you hanging, waiting for the drop that doesn’t come before another layer takes the reins does the same. Then when you think it’s safe to relax they smack you in the earholes with a huge release of noise. A delicate balancing act between alienating restraint and forceful brutality. Of building and releasing.

It’s amazing to think that this is now 20 years old as it still sounds so unique and heavily relevant. It hasn’t aged at all, but then it never sounded like it’s era in the first place. It’s too clean, structured and tight to be grunge yet too repressed to be metal. This “odd” sound is probably why it’s initial sales were poor. Reviewers (and listeners) didn’t get it at first. I know I didn’t. I liked it, but I struggled to fully appreciate it until a fair few listens. Initially I wished they’d just get on with it, let fly with the power sections, it felt muzzled. But as I got to know it I realised just how ingenious and powerful that voltage denial was.

The instrumental tracks were written and rehearsed in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky in 1990 and the lyrics and album were produced over just 4 days, at a cost to the band’s health. One member ended up in a psychiatric hospital while singer Brian McMahan was physically sick while recording the screaming chorus of Good Morning Captain over and over again.

The name Slint has become a euphemism for the kind of postcore proggy anti-prog soundscapes that their devotees Mogwai and Godspeed! are now renowned for. For me, at least, this LP almost singlehandedly created that movement. Very highly recommend that you get this LP and stick with it. Hugely rewarding.

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9/10. Bleak, bruiser.

For many years I’ve been listening to Daydream Nation, 13 Songs, Young Team and Lift Your Antenna, amongst many others, wondering where all these droning, monotonously bleak works of beautiful rambling soundscapes would take me to next. But I never seemed to find any successors. No more examples of that level of craft came my way for a long time. I was stuck with these LPs, looking upon them as some kind of endgame, an evolutionary musical dead end.

I always knew that those albums weren’t really the end. But I couldn’t find anything to hold a torch to their stark power. Everything seemed either too melodic, or too bland. I didnt know what pigeon hole people had put the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed, Sonic Youth etc into. I didnt want to know. I hate bracketing art like that. It restricts and governs it. I really didn’t know where to start looking again. So I waited.

Instead I spent years ploughing through Madlib, DOOM, Zeke, Lee Perry’s back catalogue or a host of other genres. I delved back into Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Authechre, Bowie. I’d put this “post rock” or whatever it is known as, firmly on the back burner.

Just as my copy of Daydream Nation was finally about to disintegrate into overworked dust I stumbled into this LP. I can honestly say, I don’t think I have ever been so instantly blown away by a new album. Ever. Right from the point the first chords of No Words/No Thoughts (below) whacked me in the ears like Mogwai’s Herod did so many years before I knew this was what I’d been waiting for.

Long, drawn out, droning riffs hammered from a single note dragged me down into the Swans’ peculiar world. Soothing pulses calmed everything down before the vocals crept up behind me with some hacked off, industrial guitar drones and kicked the fuck out of my head for the best part of 10 minutes. Wonderful. Almost 30 years since Michael Gira chose the band’s name beacuse “”Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures. With really ugly temperaments” they still fit the bill, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Dont get me wrong, it isnt all hard, brutal music. This LP is a beautiful, subtle, crafted masterpiece with many moments of melodic, warm, almost folk/country tinged songwriting. But these moments just serve to make you relax as waves of bleak white guitar noise and deconstructed percussion slide under the melody and drag you back into the hypnotic dirge all over again. It’s an overwhelming LP that commands all of your attention or none at all.

This is head and shoulders my LP of the moment. I have developed a very unhealthy obsession, finding my headphones virtually glued to me wherever I be. The sheer level of craftmanship is astounding, dragging 7 minute tracks out of smashing a single note inside out over and over is no mean feat.

The band’s modus operandi has always been to create music that is at once “soul-uplifting and body-destroying”. An intention they still manage to this day. The highest compliment I can pay this album is to compare it with one of the most powerful, bleakly beautiful books of our times. The similarities with Cormac McCarthy’s epic, The Road, are startling. Much like the book you’ll need a bit of time to yourself after you finish this LP, it’ll drag you down to a dark place but fill you with hope. And you’ll be immensely glad you experienced it.

9/10

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Here’s a strange mixtape of mine from a few years back. Lots of off kilter experimental “rock” from Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Beta Band, The Melvins and others. Lots of guitar loops and long mellow builds. Was pleased with it, still am. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Asked Steve Mason of the Beta Band on Twitter if it was OK to post this mix…. He not only said “of course” but also RT’d it to his followers. Mighty approval indeed.

PLAY HERE

DOWNLOAD HERE

1.SonicYouth – Trilogy

2.The Beta Band – Assessment

3.Sonic Youth – Trilogy Pt2

4.Godspeed You Black Emperor! -BBf3

5.Sonic Youth – Trilogy Pt3

6.The Melvins – A History Of Drunks

7.Times NewViking -TeenDrama

8.Pink Floyd – Breathe

9.The Beta Band – ItsOver

10.Sonic Youth – Silver Rocket

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