By Matt Hume, January 25 2018 —
It’s been seven years since Montreal’s Efrim Manuel Menuck, founding member of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, released his first solo record, Plays “High Gospel.” Hot off the heels of Godspeed’s Luciferian Towers, Menuck delivers a stunning return to solo form in Pissing Stars. The disappointed tone in the album’s title reflects its heavy mood of deep introspection and struggle — and this one hurts. A lot.
The album is a thorough dive into cosmic post-instrumentation, riddled with constantly swelling crescendos, unconventional drones and chilling vocals. “Black Flags of Thee Holy Sonne” is the perfect introduction to Pissing Stars, using every moment of its nine-minute runtime meticulously. Ominous, repeating drones find a response two minutes into the cut by a gentle, fuzzed guitar that gives way to an almost-Gregorian repetition.
Pissing Stars continues with “The State and Its Love of Genocide.” The pace of this track induces a feeling that lasts the rest of the album, where you only notice how many layers of instrumentation have appeared once you’re completely immersed in an orchestral hum. As the album progresses, the constant low buzz of various notes maintains a feeling of anxiety and a sense of urgency. Much of the vocals remain distant, yet unmistakably filled with funereal emotion. Vocal melodies are often delivered more like a chazzan or cantor than typical song, creating an air of cosmic spirituality when mixed with the electric arrangements.
Lyrically, Pissing Stars evokes dark memories, ranging from dying stars, distant affection, physical abuse and societal woes. “LxOxVx/Shelter in Peace” and “The Beauty of Children And The War Against The Poor” are perfectly haunting, balancing dour subject matter with huge crescendos and a soundscape that’s constantly evolving and growing.
Pissing Stars is an album that will make people feel, even if they’ve avoided feeling for a long time. The final and title track brings Menuck’s newest accomplishment to a beautifully peaceful and meaningful end, combining elements of vocal range, instrumentation, drone and choir introduced to the listener throughout the album. It doesn’t evoke sadness — rather, it keeps you grounded and aware of a dark reality. Kid, music will break your heart.