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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Godspeed You! Black Emperor do their stuff, but a Monumentally self-important show - review

Godspeed You! Black Emperor are an anti-establishment post-rock collective from Canada with one of the most committed cult followings going. On a single album, their music can one minute have the folksy air of a Sunday-morning telly programme from the Seventies, and the next can suggest what it might be like to slide headfirst into the core of a nuclear reactor (more often the latter).


Here getting its UK premiere, Monumental is a 2006 collaboration between the band and their compatriots, re-formed contemporary dance troupe The Holy Body Tattoo, under co-founders and choreographers Dana Gingras and Noam Gagnon. With the band raised on a platform behind a gauze at the rear of the stage, and often obscured by a screen, it sees nine dancers – dressed almost as if for the office – standing stranded on plinths, each one trapped in obsessive patterns of movement that range from confident and aggressive to defensive and self-lacerating.


As GYBE’s tsunamis of sound break grandly over you, time-lapse films of motorways, tapestries of images of wind-farms and nuggets of text from conceptual artist Jenny Holzer’s Living series are beamed on to the backcloth. And that is kind of it, for 75 minutes plus.


Watching the piece is a frustrating experience. As a comment on the isolation of modern urban life, the mechanisms we all deploy to get through it, and running (or not) with the herd, it makes a rough kind of artistic sense: a dark and ritualistic work for our dark and ritualistic times, say. 


The trouble is, it makes its point very quickly, and then just keeps on clobbering you about the head with it. And what’s more, it does so with the sort of solipsistic movements that German contemporary-dance pioneer Pina Bausch had been deploying for decades by the time of her death in 2009.


Bausch, however, well knew the value of dashes of comedy in this sort of venture, whereas boy, does Monumental take itself seriously. And – however tirelessly the disciplined nonet of dancers do their stuff – the cumulative effect as the piece progresses is one less of cowed or mesmerised submission, more one of shifting-in-your-seat boredom (as the number of walkouts near me alone on Monday night imply).


Another problem is those texts of Holzer’s. In a different context, these might have some power; here, being told, for example, “It’s an extraordinary feeling when part of your body are touched for the first time. I’m thinking of the sensations from sex and surgery”, they introduce an element of pretentiousness that the piece can ill afford.


True, the elemental heft of Godspeed’s music offers compensation of sorts, provided you don’t possess overly sensitive eardrums or a particular fondness for tunes. But Monumental is a piece with “niche” stamped all over it, and it would take a brave or masochistic soul to want to hurry back to it.


Until August 9. Tickets: 0131 473 2000; eif.co.uk



Source : www.telegraph.co.uk/

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