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When I was a kid, I used to like music, proper music. I used to like getting to hear new things. Not the new things that they played on Top of the Pops, or kids TV, but new, proper music. As a kid, with limited time and resource, I found that buying music magazines with sampler discs on was a good way of getting some exposure to different groups and even different kinds of music - I was always very open minded, so one week I'd spend my pocket money on Kerrang, the next week on Q, then MixMag and so on...
On one such CD was a (substantially) shortened version of F#A#oo's first track - The Dead Flag Blues. It features a croaky monologue spoken over harrowing, almost despairing, strings.
I loved it right away and went off to buy the album. I became a little confused at first, only being able to find a single - but then I discovered that F#A#oo *is* an album, despite only featuring three tracks. It's not immediately apparent looking at the thing that all three tracks are in excess of fifteen minutes each - and the third just scrapes in under the half hour mark. So, happy that I was actually getting value for money, I purchased the record and tottered off home to have a listen.
As I listened through the record for the first time I got goosebumps - and I still get tingles when I listen to it now.
For those who aren't familiar with them, Godspeed You! Black Emperor are a post-rock outfit from Canada that are renowned for their long tracks, mysterious cover sleeves and large numbers of members - bad membership has, at times, been in the mid 20s.
In terms of how that translates into a record - and in particular, *this* record, what they produce is kind of like orchestral music strapped to the front of a juggernaut.
The group like to play with pace and volume, so starting in extremely quiet, slow sections, they will build the aggression, tempo and volume for several minutes, reach a fantastically satisfying crescendo, then start over again. They build the track with such weight and determination, though, it really does feel completely unstoppable.
As well as the full-blooded orchestral moments, there are other sides to the disc - there's the occasional vocal, some twangy guitar and the special effects box is pretty well utilised throughout.
The resulting album is thoroughly atmospheric - and it's no surprise tracks from this album have been used in the movie 28 days later and, more recently, in the youtube hit "panic attack".
In terms of negatives, GY!BE are definitely on the pretentious side of music - they definitely take their music seriously. And some of the slow, quiet parts of the album go on for longer than some may care for. A a result of one and two, it's also not an album I can advocate everyone to run out and by immediately - I know many people who would think it snooty clap-trap you can't sing along to and take no interest in it.
Overall, however, I rate this album as one of my favourites. It's strong, meaty and it's different - a breath of fresh air.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Dead Flag Blues: Dead Flag Blues/Slow Moving Trains/Cowboy.../Outro
2 East Hastings: Nothing's Alrite In Our Life/Deadflagblues/Sad Mafioso/Drugs In Tokyo/Bl
3 Providence: Divorce And Fever/Dead Metheny/Kicking Horse OnBrokenhill/String Loop Manufacture