Luciferian Towers is the sixth album from Godspeed You! Black Emperor. GY!BE are probably one of the most famous post-rock bands out there, even being the butt of one of Seth Rogen’s jokes in Pineapple Express—an honor that not even Sigur Rós has. The band’s previous releases have sounded like a soundtrack for a post-apocalyptic world, favoring minor keys and atonal sounds and foreboding drones, and Luciferian Towers largely continues this trend. That said, the band has put a greater emphasis on melodies; there are some pretty lovely ones on here. In general, this is a lighter—dare I say more hopeful—turn from GY!BE, but this still isn’t exactly an album that you’d casually throw on the air. Best to save this one for audiences who are more open to experimental music. (Note: This album is entirely instrumental.)|
Favorites: 3, 4
1) “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” (7:47) – A persistent drone of violins and electric guitar—modulated so it sounds like it’s going in and out of focus—runs throughout the entire song. Sounds unusually optimistic, if not triumphant, for GY!BE in the first minute before dissonant sounds and minor keys kick in at about 1:15. A trumpet and a flute emerge after the four-minute mark, and by the fifth minute, those instruments start to sound jazzier and more unhinged. Another minute later, the song morphs into something resembling a coda; the drums pick up in intensity a little bit, the beat changes, and the violin and guitar transforms into some sort of riff.
2) “Bosses Hang” (14:45) – A three-part song, roughly split into thirds (0:00-4:39, 4:40-9:20, 9:21-14:45). The first third is a gentle crescendo with a repeated, overdriven guitar line; two minutes in, it becomes a full-band affair with the introduction of drums, violin, and other instrumentation. (It’s by far the most conventionally “rock” part of the album. It almost sounds like an extended, but uncharacteristically unshowy guitar solo from a lost Who concert.) The instrumentation cuts back dramatically at about 4:20, so you can fade out here if you only want to play the first third, which starts at 4:39. The second third is very similar to the first, with guitar and violin riffs repeating throughout the song and drums kicking in at around the two-minute mark of the movement (6:28 here). The song changes pace a little bit before the nine-minute mark, shifting into the third and final movement at 9:21. This one’s a more propulsive number with a steady drumbeat and a different violin riff. The overdriven guitar starts as a loud electric buzzing in the background, gradually shifting into the foreground. The last minute and a half feels like a coda, bringing the song to its conclusion and winding it down.
3) “Fam / Famine” (6:44)* – This song, the shortest on the album, is perhaps the most reminiscent of old GY!BE. Strings form an unsettling drone, an electric guitar (which sounds almost like it’s been reversed) kicks up some sonic turbulence, and a violin plays a sad, eerie melody that floats above the other instrumentation. Drums emerge after about 3:30, but they don’t disturb the track nearly as much as they do in the previous two.
4) “Anthem for No State” (14:38)* – Another three-part song (0:00-3:05, 3:06-6:01, 6:02-14:38). It gets off to a very gentle start, with a few repeated guitar notes and a long violin solo. It sounds desolate, but somewhat hopeful. The second part of the song starts at 3:06, and it’s very similar in feel to the first part except it switches out the violin for a subtle, growling electric guitar. (You could very well play the first two parts together and that’d be a nice way to take up six or so minutes on the air.) But at 5:50, just before the third part begins, the guitar feedback builds, transforming the song into a morass of drones and noise. The song changes shape again after the eight-minute mark into what I like to think of as GY!BE’s idea of a soundtrack to an old Western, featuring a low, twanging guitar and dramatic trumpets. (Honestly, Ennio Morricone deserves a co-writer’s credit.) The last four minutes of the song are dominated by repeated overdriven guitar riffs. After spending most of its runtime on simmer, the album finally boils over here, and it’s thrilling to behold.