14 October

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Luciferian Towers (2017, Constellation)

Listen/Buy


Canadian symphonic rockers, Godspeed You! Black Emperor return with their first record in x years with Luciferian Towers. Having not listened to Godspeed! much since Yanqui U.X.O, this listener was taken aback by the collective’s drastic departure from the brooding and sparse compositional work littered with field-recordings, monologues, etc. Instead, the group’s modus operandi has evolved into one which is jubilant, airy, and fairly wide-open. The musicianship remains top-notch, as do the politics. Sonically, however, the results leave much to be desired. This release largely underscores that Godspeed You! Black Emperor operate almost entirely within the idiom of rock’n’roll —a fact, that their musicianship has long done well to obscure. The opening piece, “Undoing a Luciferian Tower” is a sprawling, cinematic piece, that while decisively executed, is at times almost humorous in its unabashed bombast. Again, noting that the group operate largely within the idiom of rock’n’roll, their sonic vocabulary often ends up coming off like an indie-version of Trans Siberian Orchestra. The instrumentation is never lost or bizarre (in a pejorative sense), but the aesthetic framings that the group operate within, coupled with the aforementioned bombast, comes across as fairly mawkish. The third track, “Fam/Famine” is perhaps the best of the LP. Structurally, less predictable than the multi-movement crescendo/apex/release employed throughout the rest of the LP, the album’s shortest tune instead opts to explore sensibilities that closely resemble the collaborative proto-ambient work of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp à la No Pussyfooting. Not a bad direction and one that the group pull-off masterfully. While praise for this release has been virtually unanimous, here at Marginal HQ, we’re a bit more skeptical. Despite the group’s well documented political stance(s), the adherence to convention and accessibility, again casts doubt on western music(s)’ ability to catalyze or embody substantive social change.

14 July

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Tunic — Disappointment (2016, Public Tone)

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While the band purports themselves to be fans of the Chicago School of noise rock, they sound remarkably fresh. Making use of the early-Albini’s midwest-y driving, frenetic pace, but ditching all the macho-loner bullshit. Frenzied eighth notes are to be expected on any punk release and are ever-present here, but so too are slightly unorthodox rhythms which manage to bludgeon the listener and simultaneously break with punk’s proclivity toward the straight eight. Among the most appealing aspects of the release are the band’s sheer emotional intensity and the fidelity of the release. It sounds on first audition to be live-tracked and fairly spartan. One hopes for the sake of authenticity, this isn’t some digital gimmick. Despite its brevity, this release is visceral enough to stand up straight and deliver a knockout blow. Done and dusted in under ten minutes. Pop open the deck and the tape is sizzling. Highly recommended.

1 July

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Kanada 70 — Vamp Ire (2012, Constellation)

Buy [ no stream, sorry]


Since the mid 2000s, Toronto musician Craig Dunsmuir has deconstructed pop formalism, producing a slew of highly repetitive (at times somnolent) postmodern études. These works are brilliantly executed and take cues from a host of different stylistic predecessors, although Dunsmuir leans heavily towards 1960s-1970s West African Afrobeat (presumably, his selected moniker is an homage to Fela Kuti’s Legendary Africa ’70/Nigeria ’70 groups). From the coasting melodica on the opening “Ignore Dub I” to “Mou,” which shifts wildly into proto-industrial territory recalling the tension of Suicide and the atmosphere of Skullflower, Dunsmuir demonstrates (on the first two tracks, no less) that artistic prowess, depth, and versatility are not dependent on temporality (which is to say song duration) to appear fully-formed or well thought out. “Delivery” is acid-house for noiseniks. Pads gently swell in and out and the listener is submerged in the repetitive motorik machinations of the tune. Whether it’s two-minute fragmented electro pieces or reimagined Afrobeat motifs, Dunsmuir’s Kanada 70 resorts to a seldom used format which re-envisions popular music(s) structural make-up and its compositional process. The result is as interesting as it is accessible.