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1st December 2015

Live: Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Liverpool Music Week)

Whilst the band decide not to engage with the audience, Godspeed’s cult following are impressed nonetheless

Camp and Furnace, Liverpool

27th October


In the deep dark corners of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, Camp and Furnace plays host to one of post-rock’s biggest names and biggest soundscapes. Depending on who you ask, the mention of Godspeed You! Black Emperor seems to summon two responses: a blank stare or an emphatic nod, and it is those giving the latter that packed the Victorian warehouse space that evening. A band with such a strong cult following needs to do little to win over their crowd, and every face seemed enthralled as each member walked on one by one, picking up an instrument and adding to the increasing drone.

The eight members seemed stoic as they played, facing one another rather than performing for the audience. It gave the feeling that these were people who played for the love of music rather than for appreciation, continuing a long-spanning career in which they have frequently avoided courting the mainstream. The set included a full performance of their 2015 album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, their second outing after reforming following a decade-long hiatus. Both the album and its performance included a 15-minute drone section, which despite the seeming discord was clearly played with precision and ardour.

Behind the band (and often superimposed on them), two projectors beam disjointed, flickering images on a screen. One of the stalwarts of a Godspeed gig, nauseating loops of landfills and abandoned construction sites complement the often agitated-sounding playing. ‘Mladic’ summons a heady, almost militant stomping beat out of the dissonance, and for the first time the band begins to thud along to the drum beat, the audience falling in step almost as part of a ritual.

As the night draws to an end, ‘Blaise Bailey Finnegan III’ begins to sound out, voice samples from the record transforming the room’s ambience into that of uncomfortable voyeurism. As the playing ends, the group becomes individuals, leaving alone, their instruments left ringing onstage. The audience applauds, before stepping into the quietly autumnal Liverpool night.

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