Every album has a story, be it the arduous recording process, the individual songs or the order in which the songs have been woven. Sometimes these stories are light hearted and at other times heart wrenching and hard to imagine. Plays “High Gospel” is one of those many layered and storied albums that will sit with you for hours, like pinpricks to the body when, long after the blood has been drawn, the impression remains like an energetic sensation, swirling and stinging into your thoughts. Best known as the co-founder of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Efrim Manuel Menuck explores his solo side and offers an album of songs conceived over time in “scraps and hiccups,” as described by Menuck himself. To say that Plays “High Gospel” is all over the place is an understatement. This is more like an abstract art piece that has so much going on that you have to stare endlessly just to scratch the surface. In the liner notes, Menuck includes a breakdown of each track, explaining the recording process and his mindset when the song was birthed. In a way these dialogues read as the downplayed and aloof ramblings of a madman.
The disc opens with the sweeping “Our Lady of Parc Exec,” a vocal-heavy, hopeful droner that peaks and dips all over the place. But hope unravels when “A 12-pt. Program For Keep On Keepin’ On” morphs into something dark and sinister, ultimately ending in a howling snarl of electronic percussion. And it goes on like this: there is dark, there is light, there is hard and soft. These are song/stories of the human condition and on this recording, Manuck spreads his gospel in a unique and awesome way.