November 11, 2010

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

While Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven is the popular choice, I think Yanqui U.X.O trumps it as Godspeed You(!) Black Emperor(!)’s best album. There’s a real sense of purpose in the music here, giving it a drive that always seemed to be lacking from the group’s more jammy efforts. It’s far more consistent and tightly structured, with the songs being noticeably cleaned up and held in a forward-facing direction for their full duration. It might make it slightly more predictable, but it also makes it significantly more listenable, and certainly more replayable. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Yanqui U.X.O.The gravitas that the group are known for is in effect to an extent not seen since the noirish overdubbed dialogue of their debut, giving the album a pit-of-the-stomach impact that works hugely in its favour. The high points are as gripping as ever, with dramatic buildups, such as the one which stalks its way through a solid four minutes of “Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls”, leading into those trademark, soaring crescendos. Perhaps best of all, the album’s closing track, “Motherfucker=Redeemer”, sees this dark motif through with a blazing finale that’s undeniably uplifting, something altogether unexpected given the tone of the rest of the album. This finish provides Yanqui U.X.O with an emotional sweep that few other instrumental albums can match. A real post-rock triumph.




November 10, 2010

Jackie-O Motherfucker – Fig. 5
free-folk, post-rock, jazz, New Weird America

On Fig 5, Jackie-O Motherfucker take an overtly exploratory approach to the soulful twang of Southern folk and Americana, in which their improvvy, jam-band stylings are driven along by multiple guitars, touches of banjo, varying percussion, harmonica, free-jazz and even some sparse sampling. Their expansive takes on traditional songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Go Down, Old Hannah” are filled with warmth and beauty, while “Your Cells are in Motion”, with its propulsive rhythm and looping guitar lines, is a personal favourite. The band have about a dozen members, and being such a large collective with a somewhat improvisational playstyle, there are moments when the music can feel a bit directionless (somewhat akin to an Americana orchestra in the process of warming up), particularly on the first listen. While some listeners will find this instantly charming, to others it’ll act as something of a barrier. In time, though, it becomes apparent that the band Jackie-O Motherfucker - Fig. 5are simply piecing together their songs in a carefully organic manner, and it can be quite a fascinating experience to hear each musical genesis gradually run its course. It’s a true pleasure to witness some of the finest free-folk music of the decade being constructed “one brick at a time”, however, the point when all those bricks fall into place and the band lock into their groove is where Jackie-O Motherfucker truly come into their own. The results are uniformly captivating.