New releases by Suicide, Mum and Godspeed You! Black Emporer


American Supreme

Mute, 2002

If the label is to be given its due gravity, this is the first true post-9/11album
in that it directly and holistically addresses the psychology of the attack and
the society that sustained it. It is perfectly fitting that Suicide, the archetypical
insider band, should rise from the ashes of post-punk obscurity to deliver it
– smoking and stinking and all.

Everyone seems to have heard of the pioneering electronic duo of Martin Rev and
Alan Vega, but no one can quite recall a tune. Countless reviewers carry on about
their importance and significance, tying them to the roots of Kraut rock, electronica,
to the aggrieved, revolutionary spoken-word tradition of the Black Poets and to
New York’s No Wave movement. All of these comparisons are deserved, and American
Supreme, their first release in years, drags the famous old skeleton out of the
closet again, to great effect.

Vega’s grating voice – his phrases sometimes sound as though they were extracted
under torture – is napalm on the pyre of American culture. This is music with
a message, and neither is pretty. It chants “Dachau, Disney, Disco” as the music
collapses around our ears. In contrast to Martin Rev’s more direct keyboard and
synth work of the ‘70s, American Supreme harnesses bitter irony and reductive
musical references (as in “Child, it’s a New World’s” watery, digitized Motown
references, for example) to their purpose of social critique. If you enjoy this
music you’re likely a bit of a masochist, but it’s a mistake not to allow it to
burn you.

“Morons survive, yeah, they thrive. The education machine. Hey, what’s left?
We all live like remains.”

The double CD release also includes an atmospheric live recording of the 1998
London show.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Yanqui U.X.O.

Constellation, 2002

On the surface, Godspeed You! Black Emperor delights in opacity. They tour as
half a dozen seemingly disparate musicians with as many super-8 film projectors
in tow, building structure out of chaos onstage and then setting fire to it all
with indescribable intensity, like a suicidal robotic filing cabinet. Their albums,
released mainly on vinyl by their own Constellation label, are beautifully assembled
examples of everything positive about the indie scene and the idyllic “socially
responsible rock star,” from the notion of DIY capitalism to their emphatically
anti-corporate political messages.

Yanqui U.X.O. (U.X.O. is defined as “unexploded ordinance” in the liner
notes) damningly links the corporate entertainment industry with the companies
producing the landmines, missiles and bombs that litter the (rest of the) globe.
GY!BE is orchestral rock, though the term “rock” seems arcane when applied to
the interminably plodding narratives that pile tension upon tension, finally culminating
in a tornado of humming strings and feedback. After nearly a decade of touring
and indie releases GY!BE is finally getting some of the attention they’ve long
deserved from critics. Yanqui U.X.O., recorded by Steve Albini, is an exercise
in pure intensity; distressing, coherent and beautiful.


Finally We Are No One

FatCat, 2002

Although this is only the second full-length release from Reykjavik’s Múm, they
aren’t exactly fresh off the boat. In fact, the Berlin via Copenhagen expats might
just be one of the most prolific bands recording on the continent today. Picked
up by London’s FatCat label after a long friendship with the founders (who also
release fellow Icelander Sigur Ros’ ethereal electronica), Múm has released a
steady stream of intimate soundscapes, one-off remixes and fragmentary soundtracks
on as many Icelandic indie labels, including Bjork’s Bad Taste.

Finally We Are No One adds the angelic twin sisters Kristín Anna and Gyda Valtsdóttir
to the mix and the result is pure sleeper magic that has garnered praise from
quarters as far afield as Rolling Stone magazine, Mogwai and Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker.
An endearing blend of string elements, electronica and fragile vocals, Múm brings
Air’s minimalism to the rarified air of Iceland’s strong folk traditions. Finally
We Are No One is intricate, human and sincere, but laced with veins of darkness
and foreboding – signs of a distinct musical maturity that are beginning to earn
this band respect.

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