The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band - Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward

Album cover

  1. Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats Of Fire Are Falling From The Sky! (9:07)
  2. This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird's Fallen (5:47)
  3. Built Then Burn (Hurrah! Hurrah!) (5:41)
  4. Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River (6:59)
  5. Could've Moved Mountains... (10:59)
  6. Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk With You (4:48)
  7. C'mon Come On (Loose An Endless Longing) (8:06)
  8. The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes (6:54)

Constellation, 2001

The second album by the Montreal ensemble (now with an extended band name and a few more musicians) builds on the same romantically desolate territory as their debut - a more warm and human kind of apocalyptic post-rock. The stately piano loops, luminous strings and writhing guitars of the first couple of tracks are pleasingly familiar, but the first really ear-grabbing moment is "Built Then Burn" - an impassioned spirit-raising poetry recital by Mischa Menuck over ominously reverberating guitar shivers. This builds a delicious tension to anticipate the most rocking of all SMZ's pieces - "Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River". Violins and cellos chop out a fierce refrain, as heavy as any rhythm guitar, until Efrim Menuck delivers a frenzied lead vocal, echoed and distorted into the heavens, and the whole band join in to propel the monstrous machine forward.

From there the volume knob has nowhere to go except down, and right down it goes for "Could've Moved Mountains". No grandiose crescendos here, just a massive, dusty landscape evoked with restrained and dignified dynamics. More fantastic contrasts keep the album gripping right to the end. Its most wistful moment "Tho You Are Gone, I Still Often Walk W/You" is a conversation for piano, violin and cello, punctuated with patient silences. Guitars return to the forefront for "Come On Come On", which builds up a shoegazing intensity around a central glowing brass section. Finally on "The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes", Efrim lends a self-deprecating tone to their recurring theme of political defiance, with a refrain of "musicians are cowards" over lovely ornate arches of strings.

July 22, 2008

9 out of 10

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written and maintained by Christopher Jackson