Whether GY!BE are an actual band, an audible installation, a moveable homeless shelter or whatever you take them for, one thing that remains steadfast is their ability to think laterally. As you might not have heard, they have just released their first album in ten years today (or even a little earlier) and true to form there was no free download, no free copy with your Sunday paper, apparently no marketing and the briefest of announcements via their website. It’s almost as if they genuinely didn’t want anybody to know it was about to land.
In a time when absolute multi-media saturation seems to be the first port of call for even the most boxfresh pop starlet, some people will welcome this. Some people won’t find out until a copy mysteriously wings its way into their line of sight. Either way, and again in keeping with GY!SE’s individualised methods, the album is only four tracks long. Two 20 minute songs and two 6 minute songs, the latter in the form of a 7” record which accompanies the main event. The first track, ‘Mladic’, starts with what sounds like a hostage situation unravelling in front of a string quartet and pretty much drones its way into stomping, guitar driven behemoth of a song. It is a testament to their ingenuity that they can make a song this compelling last for so long without becoming self-indulgent. ‘We Drift Like Worried Fire’, the album’s second long song is a bit less full on in its attack and for the first half sounds closer to The Middle East or Sigur Ros than you might expect from them. Altogether it’s a ‘nicer’ song than its lengthy compatriot with some lovely drum shuffles and paradiddles to move it along. It shifts and ebbs into many guises before settling back into gear and generally plays out like the score to a stuttering and strange short film. Which, to be fair, is what it is.
The other two songs are simply drone and musique concréte and unless this is your thing, chances are they won’t see the light of day after the first listen. Harsh as that may be, and all assumptions aside, some music only lends itself to the full spectacle of a live show or with visual accompaniment. It’s hard to escape the idea that these two songs are only there to reassure the diehards that Godspeed You! Black Emperor are still very much unafraid to take risks. Thinking outside the box: yes. Overdoing it: perhaps.