on a personal mythology of the godspeed you! black emperor concert prep

screenshot from metallic_soul’s upload from the concert

(play east hastings, the ‘soul crushing’ sad mafioso… part)

Godspeed was a band that I didn’t know much about. I was listening to their songs together with other post-rock bands on playlists from YouTube or Spotify. I didn’t know any of their song names. I wouldn’t have been able to differentiate a song. My encounters with post-rock probably started with Explosions in the Sky, years ago. I was always unfair to this genre. For me, it was mostly a study/read music. I liked listening to it, but I never focused on specific songs, the instruments, the details. It was the music in the background for me. The YouTube channel Worldhaspostrock has been a good friend of mine for a long time. Some bands I started listening to were Sigur Rós, If These Trees Could Talk, This Will Destroy You, and God Is an Astronaut. Not sure if that was the time I met Matt Elliot or started listening to the songs from another channel called In The Woods where I found peace. With Worldhaspostrock, I discovered Discord and was impressed by the community gathering around this YouTube channel.

A year ago, a friend suggested some concert options (Godspeed, Mono, ?) and we had a ticket for Godspeed. The initial concert was canceled due to covid, but we were able to listen to them in September, 2022. As the concert day approached, I started to listen to them more and more often. Some days, they were playing in my headphones for around ten hours. Partly as a piece of music in the background while I was working, partly with a special focus during the evenings.

The first album I started with was their latest album since I was going to a concert that was part of this album tour. G_d’s Pee at State’s End! was released in 2021. The songs in the album are:

1. “A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind) [4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz]” 4:35
2. “Job’s Lament” 8:02
3. “First of the Last Glaciers” 5:59
4. “where we break how we shine (ROCKETS FOR MARY)” 1:44
5. “Fire at Static Valley” 5:58
6. “”GOVERNMENT CAME” (9980.0kHz 3617.1kHz 4521.0 kHz)” 11:36
7. “Cliffs Gaze / cliffs’ gaze at empty waters’ rise / ASHES TO SEA or NEARER TO THEE” 8:12
8. “OUR SIDE HAS TO WIN (for D.H.)” 6:30

52:38 in total. This is the song list for the stream version. The physical version has four songs as a combination of these – at least, Wikipedia says so. Since I mostly listen on Spotify, I was mostly clicking on the play button of this latest album, and I was constantly starting with Military Alphabet. It has ~45 seconds of digitalized utterances of some words I cannot understand. Then it continues with a signal for half a minute. I’m still curious about the 4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz part in the square brackets. In the second minute, I hear some human screams. Then the instruments enter around 02:31, and it’s unbelievable. I was mostly repeating the first three songs. Job’s Lament and First of the Last Glaciers. These three songs are so different from each other that listening to three of them in a loop gives a circle-like feeling. As if you did a round walk in a stadium.

After listening to the last album for some time, I started to listen to the previous albums or the older most-listened songs. It was around a week before the concert. I was listening to Bosses Hang, Pt. I, Static, Storm, Anthem for No State, Pt. I. From the albums, the most I listened to was Luciferian Towers (2017). Maybe it was because it was also recent, the first to try. But then I read some reviews in music magazines about the last album. In some reviews, the band was criticized for not achieving what they achieved around ten years ago. This asked me, “Maybe I still didn’t listen to their best songs?”

At that moment, my friend with whom we’ll go to the concert sent me a YouTube video link of East Hastings. The message was sent at 12:33, but I saw it after the lunch break. I started listening to it on repeat 10-15 times while working, maybe for 3 or 3.5 hours. As in their latest album, this song is also made of shorter parts. There’s even a short descriptive Wikipedia item on it.

  • Nothing’s Alrite in Our Life… / The Dead Flag Blues (Reprise)
  • The Sad Mafioso…
  • Drugs in Tokyo / Black Helicopter

I continued listening in the evening. At that time, I was playing with a recent text-to-image AI tool. When I read the comments under the East Hastings video, a certain kind of imagery appeared in my head. I tried to portray that to the tool and collected some images. It didn’t go well. But I can share at least a selection of the comments I read that day.

“this song perfectly captures the hopelessness and desperation of those lost souls wandering the streets, like ghosts”

“I listened to this song on a really long late-night bicycle ride. there’s loads of historical landmarks close to my house; five ruined castles, ancient burial mounds, prehistoric forts, abandoned medieval villages, and a Roman road that cuts perfectly straight through the countryside for endless miles”

“living in a third world country in a middle of a crisis where you can barely eat makes this song more terrifying than it is”

“I am in Milano, on the 6th floor of apartment building, watching how army vehicles patrols the streets and whole city is on lock-down, schools are closed, shops are closed, streets are empty, you can barely see anyone walking”

“the fear and panic morphed into such a primeval terror as the song finished through black helicopter. the things i was seeing, gas stations, strip malls, streetlamps, storm sirens, substations, seemed sentient – baleful and leering.”

As there were a few days to the concert, that friend who got me into Godspeed sent another link, this time the setlist of the recent concerts. The band was on an album tour, and they were coming to Berlin from Manchester, Paris, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, and Leipzig a day before. We checked the setlists, created a playlist including the songs from the last couple of days to focus on and listen to.

A sound that evokes a desire to describe the surroundings from a particular perspective. That evening YouTube recommended me a live recording of the concert from the Manchester Academy, the one which took place five days before the concert in our city. It was around 370 views, uploaded by roustghoti, who were these first listeners? That was my first encounter with concert recorders on YouTube. It was a good quality recording that I listened to 10-15 times, again. I think these were one of the triggers of my new habit of loop-listening. Since there were no timecodes, I tried to gather the timecodes myself and leave a comment. This was a practice that I’ve been seeing on the videos where commentators dissect the uploaded piece with time-relevant information. While listing the timecodes of the songs, I noticed that the uploader had already started adding these timecodes to the video description. I somehow felt connected with the uploader and left a comment. I mentioned I was doing the same thing and thanked him for the upload. It was the moment that I got a glimpse of what writing comments under a video feel like. But it got a bit stressful after the uploader replied back that he didn’t have time to finalize the timecodes, would be happy if I had already listed them on my side. I had a mission.

I didn’t know the last three song names and where the artists were switching from one to the another. Based on the setlist of Manchester and the timecodes the uploader already added, I tried to write the last songs. I listened to many songs to check which song was that or tried Shazam while listening to it, but Shazam was also confused like me. That algorithm was not sophisticated enough to guess a song from this genre from a concert record. I posted my timecodes, but they were full of shit, I felt it while I was uploading. Two hours later, the uploader inserted the rest of the timecodes as I sent them and thanked me in the video description. The following hours witnessed one of the weirdest anxieties I had in my whole life. A very minor but unfamiliar one. I dreamed of people clicking on the timecodes and thinking, “wtf! that’s not moya”. Thanks to another commenter @CR who fixed our wrongdoings after six or seven hours.

Since I thought of this scribble as a concert prep text, I don’t want to write about the concert itself. So I’ll share one last moment before the concert starts as it can be thought of as the last moment of preparation. It took place in a concert hall called Astra, which I’ll read about since it was an interesting place. I felt like we were listening to music in a factory at night after the daily shift left the place. I was waiting in a queue to get a beer and talking to my friend. Then we noticed there was a sound coming from very deep. The speakers in the rooms outside the concert hall started to sound similar to Godspeed’s long intros. And then I noticed a sudden movement of the people. They started walking towards the entrance. I imagined it as a way of arousal, an invitation, or a command that called people to the room. We were bewitched.

Our setlist:
Hope Drone
Job’s Lament
First of the Last Glaciers
Anthem for No State
Cliffs Gaze
World Police and Friendly Fire
The Sad Mafioso

Ruben Östlund in Criterion’s Closet

Uploaded to YouTube on Jan 23, 2015, by criterioncollection.

I want to start thinking about Östlund’s latest movie Triangle of Sadness, with his videos and video recommendations. He has a couple of funny YouTube videos and interviews. The one where they watch the Academy Awards foreign film shortlist announcements is also tragically funny. Triangle of Sadness felt a lot like a Buñuel film, and this recording has some clues. The video is from Criterion Collection’s series, where they invite film people to visit their collection where they can get some free films. The guests are mostly filmmakers, but there are also actors, screenwriters, etc. The common denominator is probably the love for film. I’ve been a follower of this series for some time since it gives me a great moment in every video where the cinephile experiences the encounter with tens of classical films, which react differently. My favourites are Leigh, Huppert, Varda, Jenkins and Martel. Some of them show anxiety, while most of them are fascinated. Some glance through the shelves and pick the first film that interests them. The others, mainly the older filmmakers, prepare the films before the shooting and give a presentation on the pre-prepared personal selection. In the last instance, every Criterion closet video shows a different cinephile physically encountering a good selection of the film history.

In this mythical room of world cinema, Östlund starts the conversation with g2: “When it comes to my influence, I have looked a lot on YouTube”. He mentions how he checks the references on YouTube for the films he made. He gives the famous example from Force Majeure, the crying scene of Tomas. The first absurdity for me is to praise YouTube videos in a room of classical films. It even feels like Östlund, with his satiric/cynical style, challenges the collection with a counter-argument. So what does he have to say?

  • He first suggests the helper video for Force Majeure, with his prompt “worst man cry ever”, and the first video I found is Best Cry Ever? Worst Cry Ever? –Intervention with 1.3M views, uploaded on April 23, 2010. There are also longer versions.
  • The second one is “idiot spanish bus driver almost kills students” which leads to the video Idiot Spanish busdriver almost kills students. One of the early YouTube videos that was uploaded around two years after the platform was built, on December 10, 2006, has 3.5M views now. He doesn’t mention, but he’s probably inspired by this video during the fantastic finale of Force Majeure.
  • Next, “battle at kruger” leading to a documentary footage of Battle at Kruger, again a pre-history YouTube flick. Uploaded on May 3, 2007, has 88M views now. It’s an eight-minute drama of a “battle between a pride of lions, a herd of buffalo, and 2 crocodiles at a watering hole in South Africa’s Kruger National Park while on safari.” (as the video description portrays).
  • I sadly couldn’t understand the last one. I did a lot of searches, tried to listen to him in 0.25x but couldn’t get the last word. It’s something like “taxi driver int…” but, no relevant results.

We’re just at the end of the first minute of his video of 06:46 minutes long. But this may be enough as an introduction. Right after the YouTube recommendations, he mentions his anxiety about being in this room, supported by his background which was not in film but in ski movies. Just like the other cinephiles in the Criterion closet, he releases this tension with a personal confession and starts talking about the films in the closet. And that’s the end.

p.s. DAILY LIFE ONBOARD A NORTH POLE CRUISE vlog for the fans of Triangle of Sadness.