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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada


1) Moya; 2) Blaise Bailey Finnegan III.

General verdict: The subtle, but important transition from cowboy post-rock to symphonic post-rock.

This relatively short (ultra-short for GY!BE standards, actually) EP tends to get lost between the two monumental albums that surround it, but it doth have its place in the bandʼs history — its two tracks are quintessentially transitional between the mournful ghosttown soundscapes of F♯A♯∞ and the monumental tsunamis of Lift Your Skinny Fists. Admittedly, if you are not a major fan of the band, it is skippable; but if you ever wondered about any «missing links» on the way from out there to over here, Slow Riot is just the thing to supply you with the necessary evidence.

ʽMoyaʼ, the track named after the bandʼs guitar player, is arguably the very first «trademark» crescendo in GY!BE history — slowly growing out of a half-harmonious, half-dissonant pool of drawn-out cello and violin chords and eventually werewolfishly transforming itself into crashing barrages of shoegazing guitar pandemonium. All it lacks to ascend the heights of Lift Your Skinny Fists is the production: overdubs and echoes have not yet been mastered to the level where they become subconsciously associated with Olympic gods. (I would also add that the hook potential of the riffs and drones is weaker than whatever would come to be, but this is subjective).

The second track largely milks the same kind of groove, except that this time the proceedings are occasionally interrupted by field recordings — this time, we get a guy who goes under the moniker of ʽBlaise Bailey Finnegan IIIʼ, complains about the evil nature of The System, and then reads one of his «poems» that happens to be a variation on the lines of Iron Maidenʼs ʽVirusʼ (written by their then-current vocalist Blaze Bayley). This is good, actually — it shows that the band has a subtle sense of humor, and that their social agenda had not completely turned them into one-track minded zealots. Other than that, the track is twice as long as ʽMoyaʼ and therefore allows itself not one, but two crescendos — the two-crescendo thing would become standard for Lift Your Skinny Fists — before slowly and smoothly fizzling out with Gorecki-influenced romantic string passages.

The most important step forward is that Slow Riot pretty much drops any signs of «dark country» that were so prevalent on the first album, instead opting to take most of its inspiration from two sources — shoegaze and contemporary classical. By doing this, GY!BE make a serious claim to universal rather than regional appeal — and, as it would soon turn out, set the stage for their masterpiece, though at this point it is not yet clear if they are truly capable of one. After all, both tracks set pretty much the same mood and achieve the same goal with the same means (crazy guy rambling on the second track notwithstanding). But even at this point, nobody else in 1999 really had the guts and the means to pull off anything on this grandiose kind of scale.

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