Listening to A Silver Mt. Zion a few days ago I was reminded of this EP which is magnificent. It only consists of two tracks, “Moya” and “BBF3” although the CD cover contains no information about the name of the group or the song titles. The title of the EP is only shown on the spine. Like A Silver Mt. Zion (ASMZ), there is a wilful obtuseness about this. Godspeed You! Black Emperor (GYBE) is a collective formed by Efrim Menuck. ASMZ is an offshoot formed by Efrim Menuck and two members of GYBE. There are a lot of similarities although ASMZ have occasional vocals whereas GYBE rarely do.
GYBE have released six full length albums and this EP came a year after their first album, “F#A#~” although that last symbol should be a sideways 8, the symbol for infinity. Wilfuly obtuse.
The first track is named after Mike Moya, one of the guitarists in GYBE. It starts with a low hum and gradually strings, a glockenspiel and guitars are introduced. As the volume, speed and intensity increase, a violin begins playing a barely discernible melody. Gradually everything quietens and slows down until hardly anything is playing. After five minutes, some drums kick in and the melody reappears and the intensity increases once again but so imperceptibly that the journey to wild abandoned noise seems gentle and affectionate, not abrupt or rude. Finally, nearing the eight minute mark, the drum beat doubles, the melody that was haunting only a few minutes ago now seems menacing and the final three minutes are a scorching celebration of all that has gone on before. After nearly eleven minutes the music quietens down to introduce the other track.
“BBF3” is named after Blaise Bailey Finnegan III whose vox pop interview forms the centrepiece of this remarkable piece of music. The full interview is transcribed here.
As BBF3 rants on about how corrupt the American government is and how he shouted at a judge when he had to pay a speeding ticket, the music from GYBE swirls gently in the background with the normal mixture of violin and guitar. After five minutes, everything pauses. When Percy and I saw GYBE live, it was clear that one of the exciting aspects of their performance was the gradual change of dynamics, moving from almost silence to crashing crescendos over a period of three or four minutes. This is exactly what happens in the second section of “BBF3”. The third section starts after eight minutes and we are back to BBF3, boasting about how many guns he has. My favourite bit of this EP is when the interviewer asks “Do you think things are gonna get better before they get worse?” I have found that it’s a great thing to ask someone in a pub after the fourth pint. In this case BBF3 splutters with indignation at the mere possibility that things could get any better. He finally responds with “No way. Things are just gonna get worse and keep on getting worse.” He is asked if he’s ready for what’s coming to which he replies “ready as I’ll ever be”. Again, that’s a great conversation opener. He is then asked to recite some of his poetry. The way he recites it is exactly the same way that Lou Reed recites the lyrics of “Murder Mystery”. BBF3’s poetry is mad, obviously, but in an impressive way. Sadly, while looking up information about this album, I’ve discovered that all he is doing is reciting the lyrics to “Virus” by Iron Maiden. After that he concludes by saying “Be prepared for anything at any time from anybody, don’t take no shit, always stand your ground. People wanna come up to me and run their mouth – guess what? I’ll throw them through the fucking window… I won’t think a thing of it.” At this point the music quickly becomes impossibly intense, fast, manic and exciting for three minutes until it all quietens down for three minutes of quiet noodling. It’s an astonishing listen.
Are you ready for what’s coming?