The great, mysterious and powerful Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor is not stopping in Chicago on its current tour. This is why I decided to make the trek on Monday night, Sept. 21, all the way down to Bloomington, Ind., where GY!BE was playing at the Bluebird Nightclub. I got a ride from my friend Sei Jin Lee, and we arrived just in time. What an odd thing it is to ride for hours through Indiana, only to walk into a nightclub on a college campus as a band starts playing — not just any band, but one that is making an apocalyptic roar. Was anything else happening anywhere in Indiana — or the whole Midwest — to rival the epic, majestic noise pouring forth from the stage in that inauspicious-looking bar at that moment?
Godspeed You! Black Emperor recently released its second album since coming back from hiatus, and it’s yet another epic by this Montreal ensemble: Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress. That new album made up the core of the band’s set on Monday night, and like much of this band’s music, it seemed more like a symphony than just a series of rock songs. The violin melodies are one reason why GY!BE’s music feels orchestral, but it goes beyond that. All of the instruments, including electric guitars, combine to make mountains and valleys of sounds, carefully mapped out in these compositions. The pounding, crashing chords evoked the drama of a battle or a disaster, but melodies soar out of the darkness, sounding like a triumph of the human spirit.
No one in the band said a word. As always, its music had an eerie visual companion — flashing black-and-white collages created on the spot by Karl Lemieux, who ran strips of old movies through several projectors. The pictures looked like damaged newsreel scraps, postcards and manuscripts — decaying fragments of our world.
Set list: Hope Drone /Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!’ / Lambs’ Breath/ Asunder, Sweet / Piss Crowns Are Trebled / (unknown) / Gathering Storm / (unknown) / Mladic