The nine-piece Montreal collective Godspeed You Black Emperor! has carved out an impressive niche as one of the world's most accessibly inscrutable bands. Politically radical yet entirely instrumental (save for some telling samples), willfully obscure (its members generally hide their faces and identities), and maddeningly prolific (try sifting through its side projects some time), the group nevertheless makes music that's powerful and emotionally direct enough to appeal to just about anyone who encounters it. Oh, and now the exclamation point in the band's name should be placed between "You" and "Black." Please make a note of it. GYBE's latest dispatch, Yanqui U.X.O., travels further down the rabbit hole, stretching three songs ("9-15-00," "Rockets Fall On Rocket Falls," and "Motherfucker=Redeemer") across a disquieting 75-minute landscape. With production by Steve Albini, a perfectly combative accomplice for a band that loves to provoke, Yanqui U.X.O.'s most audacious move may actually be its relative sedateness. Stripped of some of Godspeed's hallmarks, including its creepy spoken-word samples and propensity for building to an overbearingly climactic full-on pummel, the disc's power lies more in its subdued shading and slow, methodical builds. For full effect, the songs need to be taken in alongside Yanqui's cantankerous liner notes, which graft a narrative onto the meandering soundscapes, generally in the form of anti-corporate and anti-war screeds that indict everyone for everything. Without its provocative packaging–from the essays to the bombs on the cover–Yanqui U.X.O. is somewhat harder to digest, but it's hard to fault Godspeed You! Black Emperor for balancing political heavy-handedness with a surprising degree of musical subtlety.
More from The A.V. Club