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82. Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Storm

03/10/2009

82

I still remember the exact time and place that I first heard Storm. I mention this only to demonstrate the impact that it made on me – never before had I heard a piece of music quite as exhilarating, and with nine years’ distance my admiration hasn’t dimmed a jot. The first thing to strike is the band’s self-belief – Storm is defiantly unconventional, yet the conviction in the playing compels you to listen. The grandeur of the whole project too, its pace and dignity, comes across like an evangelical religious encounter, with the preacher exchanged for screaming guitars and the God for uncompromising underground idealism. Indeed, when the tender Gathering Storm, the second part of this piece, quotes Amazing Grace before exploding into heroic excess, the euphoria – the “I believe, brother!” – is huge. It’s that joy, evinced by some blissful major-key melodies, which further lifts the track: while lots of Godspeed’s output felt overbearing at times, like some soliloquy from an endless Shakespearean tragedy, Storm is frequently thrilling – trumpet blasts, furious fuzz guitar and a manically accelerating drum section betray an optimism at the heart of Godspeed’s tortured, self-defeating soul. There are similarities to rave culture too in the big drops, massive builds and the call to “lift yr skinny fists like antennas to heaven” in the title of the first part. It all makes for a piece that simply demands you admire it – it insists, by force of its own personality, craft and musicianship that you find it nothing but astonishing.

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