Efrim Manuel Menuck ~ Pissing Stars

We occasionally stray from our purely instrumental path. Perhaps we want to highlight a small artist who merits a brighter spotlight, or perhaps an artist is simply too significant – too seminal – to overlook. Efrim Manuel Menuck belongs in the latter category: the recognisable enigma who arguably “fronts” the most significant post-rock band of our time. He ventured solo for his first LP in 2011, just as Godspeed You! Black Emperor were stirring from their lengthy slumber. Now, the band are back in full swing, humanity still seeks out its own demise, and Menuck continues to pen responses with impassioned intensity.

Pissing Stars is in places as uncomfortable a listen as its title suggests. Following GYBE’s and even Silver Mt. Zion’s recent energised bombast, Menuck appears as something of a drained, desperate force. His liner notes talk of the ‘giddiness of enervation’ and ‘liberation of being emptied’. The first four tracks convey this with sombre waves that lap above an undertow of frenzied energy. The opening, droning two chords of “Black Flags Ov Thee Holy Sonne” are like the slow breaths of a frail figure. When Menuck’s vocals enter, they are plaintive and weak, processed into echoes conveying a vast loneliness. The opening chords return as sonorous hums, casting a meditative pall over this figure. We are swaddled in bleakness.

Other than the vocals, these layers of miserable comfort are provided mainly by fuzzy guitars and droning synths. Drums are absent bar one track, the synths providing rhythms in their stead. Unlike the predominantly groove-based beats of the older post-rock brethren, however, these are not for bobbing or swaying to. Rhythms are motorik and tempos just quick enough to convey enfeebled listlessness, like a palpitating heart. Intense and despairing, “The State And Its Love And Genocide” offers a pulsating crunch like the tearing of wet fabric, while eerie synths and guttural guitar notes in “The Lion-Daggers Of Calais” are backed by an airy, fuzzy throb. Further on, the penultimate and finest track “The Beauty Of Children And The Way Against The Poor” is relentlessly propelled by a quick, almost percussive pulse, persisting as droning organs, female vocals and Menuck’s impassioned pleading bring the record to its emotional crescendo – one that eventually withers in exhaustion. It would have made a wonderful end to the record, rather than the unremarkable “Pissing Stars”.

Surrounding that penultimate track, however, shafts of light penetrate the gloom, rendering dust like fireflies – staleness as life. Title notwithstanding, “A Lamb In The Land Of Payday Loans” is a more upbeat excursion of guitars and electronic drums, and finds Menuck at his most loquacious. The first half of “LxOxVx/Shelter In Place” is a folksy lyric over a pure oscillating synth drone; the vocals give way in the second half to rumbling guitars, until a screeching melody emerges like a wind to lift our wretched hero from the gloom.

The record’s purest warmth is found in its centre – the wordless “Hart_Khashoggi” is a blanket of ambient synths that pays homage to a female US TV presenter and the son of the Saudi arms dealer, who found unlikely and newsworthy love during Menuck’s turbulent teenage years. What this event means to the Canadian is unclear, but it stuck with him and seemed to offer something resembling comfort – or perhaps possibility. No matter how unlikely or how heinous, connections will always be forged.

‘And soon we’ll all be free’

Those who miss the more meandering nature of GYBE’s first three records will likely be satiated with this set’s sequencing. Shorter ditties segue into lengthier tracks, while abrupt changes of style and tone abound elsewhere. There are samples of children spitting slogans, and a justice warrior calmly issuing a call to arms (“Kills v Lies”). Pissing Stars is an enthralling and touching alternative to recent output from Menuck’s main groups – one steeped in Constellation lore, yet a distinctive tome from a scholar of our musical world. Most surprisingly, despite the exhaustion flowing across its pages, it seems to conclude that, even in the darkest recesses, light can penetrate. (Chris Redfearn-Murray)

Available here

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on A Miscellany Of Tasteful… and commented:
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s frontman has a new solo release reviewed by our friends at A Closer Listen.

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