In Analogs, we’ll be taking a look at two records that share some interesting parallels to an album out that week. Whether it be an album from 50 years back that bears some quiet influence, or an under-appreciated record from last week, if you like the record in question, you’re sure to like its Analogs.
This week we’re looking at analogs to Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! Be sure to check out our review later this week.
Swans – Soundtracks For The Blind
While the noisiness of their newest album, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, may recall Swans’ latest effort the most sonically, it is to Soundtracks For The Blind that Godspeed owes the greatest conceptual debt. Consisting of a staggering 25 tracks that total well over two hours, Soundtracks is the last album Swans put out before their initial breakup, and is easily their most varied and abstract effort. Within Swans’ discography it is an outlier, never approaching the straight-up punishment of their early albums or sense of songcraft that characterized much of their 90’s output, but still retaining the menacing overtones that appear in almost all of their work.
Elements of ambient music (“The Beautiful Days”), drone (“Mellothumb”), and multi-movement post-rock (“The Sound”) all come into the fold at various points on Soundtracks, but everything is stitched together by the use of tape loops, a technique that Godspeed would make their signature just a short while later. The tape comparison deepens with the fact that “I Was A Prisoner In Your Skull” and “Minus Something” both feature a voice that carries a strong resemblance to the Preacher in “Static,” from Godspeed’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. While Allelujah! doesn’t sport any such monologues, it still underlines the Godspeed-Swans connection by being both Godspeed’s heaviest release sonically, and coming out at the same time as Swans’ heaviest release in some time. Fans of Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! would be well-off listening to both The Seer for its immediate similarities, and Soundtracks For The Blind for its antecedent status.
Vampillia – Alchemic Heart
There are more than few parallels to draw between Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the Osaka, Japan-based 11-piece “brutal orchestra” Vampillia. Both lean towards instrumental music with some kind of social or political message, both focus on movement-based, peak-and-valley songwriting, both use strings, guitars, pianos, and all out noise to make their point, and, well, on Vampillia’s 2011 record, Alchemic Heart, you get two uncompromising, twenty-plus minute compositions. However, the differences are vast enough to make Alchemic Heart stand well on its own. First of all, Vampillia don’t have a drummer. Instead, on both of the record’s tracks, after delicate, sparse openings, they form into a single, colossal mass of stunning beauty and noise, voices, strings, and crackling drones rising around distorted guitar chords like a released spirit toward heaven. From there the orchestra doesn’t stop building skyward. It’d be overwhelming if the melodies weren’t so gorgeous. The first track, “Sea,” features Jarboe of Swans (see above) fame, while “Land” features noise god, Merzbow. It’s the kind of music you have to hear to believe. Alchemic Heart is other-worldly.