The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band with Choir - "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing,

Album cover

  1. Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom (16:27)
  2. Babylon Was Built On Fire / Starsnostars (14:44)
  3. American Motor Over Smoldered Field... (12:05)
  4. Goodbye Desolate Railyard (14:25)

Constellation, 2003

As they recruited more musicians, and their pieces fattened to an album of four quarter-hour tracks, it seemed only natural for Silver Mt. Zion to release their third album with a lengthened band name and album title. Now both their moniker and ensemble are joined by a choir. On the ambitious opening piece, this ragged vocal group takes the stage with some rousing and strange harmonies and "so-fa-la" syllables in counterpoint, eventually fizzing out in a wash of mellotron. SMZ's richest-ever string ensemble work then leads to a traditional but still exciting full-band crescendo to conclude a quite dazzling large-scale work. The more austere second piece paints dabs of instrumental colour in the corners of a massive bare space, to eventually house Efrim Menuck's declamatory lead vocal, like an expansion of their debut's anti-anthem "Movie (Never Made)". It builds up a stubborn momentum, it's "missiles in their homes" refrain gradually filled out with a confusion of extra voices.

But the energy built in these first two pieces dissipates rapidly, and the second half of the album contains the most truly gloomy half-hour of music I've heard in all of the post-rock genre. With two songs about the great promise brought by civilisation ending in waste and death, rendered by Efrim's despairing howl, the ruined industrial landscapes are now even drained of musical warmth. The vocal passages are supported with bare acoustic twiddling, and separated with a chugging full-band workout of the sort done more convicingly by SMZ's parent band Godspeed You Black Emperor!. The spirits are only lifted by a juicy key change a couple of minutes from the end of the third piece. Finally, after a sonorous collage of railway noises, a thoroughly exhausted-sounding chorus returns to reassure Efrim in a refrain of "everybody gets a little lost sometimes", and soothe us into an unquiet sleep.

July 22, 2008

8 out of 10

See blog entry: A Silver Mt. Zion (and Tra-la-la Kitchen Sink) (29 Jul, 2008)

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written and maintained by Christopher Jackson