Easily my most visceral Sled Island experience yet, Friday’s back-to-back set of Carla Bozulich and Godspeed! You Black Emperor show was every kind of strange and loud you could want.

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Carla Bozulich is one of a few artists at this year’s Sled who have been specially selected by the righteous hands of Godspeed themselves.  She was totally weird in the best way possible, though I wasn’t sure, and still am not, if her erratic stage presence is a normal thing for her, or just happened to be what I witnessed on this day.  Everything from her twisted facial expressions, to the contorted way she cradled her guitar was extremely intriguing.  Her songs, many being traditional folk tunes, were undecipherable as such, as each successive song seemed fueled by more heaviness then its predecessor.  At one point she spent a few mesmerizing minutes crouched at her loop pedal like a scientist consumed by their own experiments, summoning layers, layers and more layers of distortion.  Her voice is beautiful in the most unconventional way, in the way that dirt and rust are beautiful.  It creaks, cracks and breaks, and it is startling, but so uninhibited with authenticity, that you can’t help but want to share space with it.  Accompanied by an extremely cogent drummer and keyboarded sonic drones, this set was just incomparable to anything else.  Endearingly severe, raw, and so very strange. 

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Montreal’s post-rock legends, Godspeed! You Black Emperor were up next.  The last of the shows they would play at Sled, Central Church was jam-packed by the time they took the stage.  The set commenced with a single low drone, building in volume and body over the course of a few minutes into a kind of swollen wave, a sound so large it reverberated off pews and the domed ceiling, so immense its undertones were felt as prickles on the skin.  Godspeed then digressed into a relentless two-hour set.  No words were spoken between band-members as each song bled into the next, a deliriously heavy feast spoon-fed to fleets of hungry ears.  Positioned in a circle, with some members crouched on the floor, some turned from the audience, it was like witnessing a coven of practicing druids. Behind the band, black and white videos of urban decay projected themselves onto twin-screens, lending unsettling contexts to audible content.  It was kind of a shock when the music finally ended, as if an accustomed IV had been pulled from our veins, as if we had all just awoken from an infinite dream.