Kevin Doria, of noise/drone lifers Growing, is about as apt an opener as you can get for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. There’s almost no movement from the man himself during two lengthy compositions, the first just lightly playing with tone and shape across 20 minutes, the second opting for a noisier, more abrasive hue.
‘Hope Drone’ has opened most shows since Godspeed’s return in 2010, mutating over the years to the point where it’s now what could be called a “normal” song, as opposed to the wall of noise it began life as. Sophie Trudeau’s violin is immediately striking, offset against the noise created elsewhere in both plucked notes and sickly sweet trills. This leads straight into ‘Job’s Lament’ from last year’s ‘G_d’s Pee at States End!’, the lights momentarily losing their gloomy shadows in favour of a blood-red sheen.
Every Godspeed show is a multimedia affair, with lights and visuals playing an important role in bringing their apocalypticism to life. After an unsettling message of “Hope” flickers amongst the chaos during ‘Hope Drone’, projections of the stock exchange can be seen during ‘First of the Last Glaciers’, the absurdity of modern day capitalism being a frequent theme. ‘Bosses Hang’ is accompanied by incomplete skyscrapers, which becomes unfortunately apt when there’s a technical hitch half-way through, seemingly with the violin amp, which causes a five minute delay. The work-in-progress construction is doubly halted before the issue is fixed and the show goes on.
‘Cliffs Gaze’ sees a rare pastoral scene to begin with, though as the intensity of the song builds – with Thierry Amar returning to the double bass, Mike Moya giving a serrated guitar masterclass, and double drumming – there are images of a plane falling to earth, trapped in its death spiral as the music swirls. It’s a claustrophobically heavy moment (fitting given the heat in the room) that eventually gives way to 2000’s ‘World Police and Friendly Fire’, the first fan favourite that simply exudes dread amidst images of riots and billowing smokestacks.
The band typically mix it up for the final song, usually from one of their ’90s releases. Tonight it’s ‘The Sad Mafioso…’ section of ‘East Hastings’. It begins simply as so many Godspeed movements do, with a particularly beautiful passage of strings and electronics, before raising the noise level via warped bass notes and a tempo shift into double time. This ends the night with a glorious racket that exemplifies what this band is all about – a finely layered noise somewhere between a gentle caress and punch in the stomach.