godspeed you! black emperor, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

No vocals. No lyrics. No solos and no leader. Instead, the nine-member Montreal collective known as Godspeed You! Black Emperor specialize in a surging symphonic post-rock, incorporating everything from ambient feedback drones to abstractions of hardcore punk; its second album is its masterwork.

A soundtrack for dreams, revolutions, genocides and afterlives.

Arranged in four continuous suites that forego conventional song structures in favor of orchestral movements, Lift Your Skinny Fists frames and contextualizes GY!BE's compositions with automated gas station announcements and odd field recordings. Yet its multiple climaxes of sobbing strings, restless drums and sustain-drenched guitar are what define the record.

Playing off the double-meaning of its title, “Static” moans slowly, an unearthly hum merging with elegiac strings. Suddenly, a seething metal cacophony erupts until the song wears itself out, leaving behind a buzz that brings the piece back to where it begins. A spoken memory of Coney Island launches “Sleep,” which features a frantic and more rhythmic summit than the other songs, continually collapsing and starting up again. Like sequins on a black tar sea, the fourth suite, “Antennas to Heaven,” sprinkles twinkling glockenspiel over a thunderous din. Another sustained quiet passage follows, but at the album's conclusion it turns shrill and discordant, offering neither resolution nor rest. As its title suggests, this imaginary soundtrack for dreams, revolutions, genocides and afterlives feels like a frustrated prayer, but one that's full of fighting spirit.