Monthly Archives: July 2017

CST007: Sackville – The Principles of Science

I’ve always felt that Constellation Record’s output generally consists of music that’s a little outside the norm. Even in a genre that in my personal opinion, feels mostly rigid, the bands in question still find room to breathe and throw in their own stylistic flair. The result is something more accessible and gentle than what we may now be used to from this label.

The Principles of Science remains Sackville’s only release on Constellation Records. The release seems to be the first to stray away from the incredibly experimental roots of (arguably) unconventional music, in favour of a more approachable folk style. The band, lead by Gabe Levine’s gentle vocal style and delicate acoustic performance, still find ways to throw in different ideas and concepts, offering something that feels distinctly folk, without simply sounding like another run-of-the-mill folk record. The result is a very gentle and fragile record that feels uplifting and moving as we move across its five tracks. A sense that feels a little bit at arms with the more moody and sometimes grim sound we’ve seen prior.

This EP release perhaps makes sense of some of Constellation Records future additions to the roster (Eric Chenaux, Siskiyou, Elfin Saddle and of course, Vic Chesnutt), who also offer their own refracted viewpoint on the folk genre.

C+

CST007: Sackville – The Principles of Science

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CST006: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada

According to the website Rate Your Music, Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s Slow Riot For New Zerø Kanada is the highest rated EP amongst its users. When thinking of EP releases, I can think of many that have grabbed my attention in many different ways, but none quite like this. It’s perhaps a very tall claim, but the material presented on this EP release from Godspeed is nothing short of phenomenal, and arguably remains some of their best work to this present day. In short, some people may have their own favourite EPs, but for the most part I agree with the users of Rate Your Music.

First half offers us ‘Moya’, a slow-building monolithic post-rock experience that perhaps foreshadows much of the band’s later material. On the album’s second half ‘BBF3’, we get more of that style we’ve become familiar with from listening to the band’s debut effort, where the band’s post-apocalyptic style is accompanied by an vox pop interview with a stranger calling himself Blaise Bailey Finnegan III. The angry politically charged rant discussing America at the time of the recording  feels as eerie and unsettling in this current day and age. It’s akin to being part of the audience to sign-wearing doomsayers marching the streets. Very much fitting in with the various members of Godspeed’s own political opinions and worries, all translated into this stark yet beautiful apocalyptic music.

A

CST006: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Slow Riot For New Zerø Kanada

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CST005: Do Make Say Think – Do Make Say Think

When Constellation Records announced Do Make Say Think would be releasing their first record in 8 years (Stubborn Persistent Illusions), I was suddenly hit with how much I actually missed the band and their output. Across their discography, DMST have released some absolutely stunning albums, ones which stand out in the post-rock genre as positively unique and untouchable. Perhaps it is high praise, but I award them so much due to the fact that so few bands manage to achieve the level of standard DMST achieve in their music. It is truly something else.

The band’s debut album is arguably not the best place to start, but it is definitely essential listening once you have a feel for them. Later albums would see the band trying out many new ideas, producing a sound that is oddly upbeat and joy-inducing for a genre that so often feels miserable and moody. There is upbeat amusement here, notably in the bouncy opening, but it gives way to an oddly unsettling and unusual experience that feels very weird. It’s in that weirdness we find so many incredible ideas and concepts, few of which we really see the general slog of post-rock bands trying. It all culminates into what I feel are the best 20 minutes on any post-rock album, where we as listeners are thrown headfirst into a cosmic jazzy musical voyage into the unknown. It’s a truly weird experience to behold, and one that feels oddly unsettling and scary, but when you allow yourself to just get transported by the music, the result is something transcendental. The textures are to die for, from the pulsating bass notes to the twangs of discordant guitars, rising, swelling, descending, moving, it’s whimsical and bemusing, it’s unsettling yet engrossing.

This review has gotten a little weird I feel, but maybe it’s okay, cause we’re talking about Do Make Say Think here. This here was the launching off point for one of the greatest post-rock bands. Do Make Say Think is a wonderfully stunning debut. One that can completely knock you out and still make you feel oddly calm, like you’ve traveled the entire globe without even leaving your seat. This more experimental and arguably looser sounding DMST might be tough for some people, which is understandable. When it clicks though, by God does it click!

B+

CST005: Do Make Say Think – Do Make Say Think

 

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CST004: Exhaust – Exhaust

I attribute my interest of experimental music to albums like Exhaust’s debut effort. Albums where seemingly odd concepts are melded together into one cohesive vision. On paper, the idea seems weird and unusual, but the result is something that is wonderfully interesting, placing you into this mindset that no other album would ever manage to do. (I’ve been told such observations on experimental music is a ‘cop-out’, but the fact is each experimental album does throw us into something unique, and surely that is worth something?)

Exhaust is certainly an odd machine of an album. Hypnotic rhythmic drums (Aidan Girt) push us along through the moaning of bass clarinets (Gordon Krieger), offset by the occasional sample and/or live reel-to-reel tape distortion (Mike Zabinski), resulting in a very moody and unsettling experience that is wholly intriguing. It all feels incredibly political, all ready to make a statement on issues that feel horribly ignored. Similar works include Aidan Girt’s other projects, from Banukin’s Bum, to Bottleskup Flenkenkenmike, to of course 1-Speed Bike, all of which feature that odd tinkering and reworking of subtle concepts built around kinetic drums and bass. Here on Exhaust, it’s perhaps a bit more easier to digest, though the whole work is one that is dark and moody and wholly unusual. Those interested in Girt’s projects would find Exhaust a good launching off point, as well as 1-Speed Bike, which we’ll come too at some point in the future.

Political albums built around experimental musical concepts? What a weird thing to say out loud… Good thing it works though. It’s unlikely to be the kind of album you’ll want to listen to over and over again, but the experience is definitely note-worthy.

C

CST004: Exhaust – Exhaust

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CST003: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – F#A#∞ [1995-1997]

Those who are familiar with Constellation Records and its output will no doubt have heard of the incredible Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and of course understand the significance the hold in the history of the label itself. This, their debut record (not including the legendary unheard cassette tape All Lights Fucked On The Hairy Amp Drooling), perfectly encapsulates the fragile yet commanding presence the band hold. To listen to this album is to be perfectly pulled into a post-apocalyptic world where everything is uncertain and harrowing, and yet amongst all the rubble, destruction and chaos, there is something oddly beautiful.

It should be noted that this review looks at the vinyl edition of the album, and whilst it does feature an array of intriguing and mysterious inserts (from crushed pennies to pictures of trains), absent is the incredible track “Providence”, the bonus track featured on the Kranky CD version. However, one doesn’t need the track to really get the full experience of ‘F#A#∞‘. If anything, the CD version is more lacking as it doesn’t have the run-off groove that creates the ultimate drone track. (It is called F#A#∞ for a reason!)

F#A#∞’ is one of those albums I’ll always remember the first time I ever sat down to listen to it. At the time, I was around 15-16, and interested in checking out post-rock music. I happened upon Godspeed You Black Emperor, and was intrigued by the monolithic lengths of their songs. When discussing music with people, they seem to be surprised about the fact that Godspeed’s tracks are well over 10-15 minutes in length for the most part. I can’t envision it any other way though. Listening to the band isn’t a chore, but a musical odyssey that transports one through a dystopian landscape of fear and caution, with just the slightest hints of hope peering in through darkened grey clouds.

The album is perhaps more sparse than future Godspeed releases, which arguably see more of an emphasis on the chugging power of music itself. But here, that more delicate side of Godspeed results in something truly wonderful. It’s truly harrowing at times, and there’s a beauty in that if it’s your kind of thing. It’s albums like this that make the post-rock genre one that is so interesting, and listening to albums like these again can help rekindle those feelings of why you fell in love with the genre in the first place. Maybe it’s due to the fact that there’s nobody quite like Godspeed. Some bands try, but few have even come close to matching their output.

A

CST003: Godspeed You Black Emperor! – F#A#∞ [1995-1997]

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