MAGNET’s #19 Album Of 2015: Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress”

Godspeed

The reason Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress is one of the best albums of 2015 begins three minutes and 15 seconds or so into “Peasantry Or ‘Light! Inside Of Light!’” (the first of the record’s four tracks). After a few passes at the song’s thunderous chord progression, the band lowers the noise for the first of what will be several feedback-and-fuzzladen—but deliberately melodic—guitar lines. When that solo breaks through, the sensation is like a hot wire passing through the palm of the hand: arresting, jolting and jarringly intimate. When Sophie Trudeau’s violin begins to intertwine with that solo, the layers build again, like a tideswell, through the song’s slow fading conclusion. The rest of the album unrolls just this way—in slow, controlled surges and recessions. Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been recording stately, ambient post-rock since 1997, but Asunder, its fifth album, takes a turn toward compositional complexity that’s both surprisingly melodic and surprisingly mature, as if the birdsong at the heart of the noise had been there all along, and we’d only now begun to hear it. It’s sweeping, gorgeous stuff, like a film score for a half-remembered dream, or a static-filled radio transmission from the bottom of the ocean. —Eric Waggoner