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A Silver Mt. Zion - This Is Our Punk-Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing CD (album) cover


A Silver Mt. Zion


Post Rock/Math rock

3.11 | 44 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Although virtually indistinguishable from the larger and more powerful Godspeed You! Black Emperor on their first two releases, with the exception of a marginally quieter volume, it isn't surprising that with "THIS IS OUR PUNK ROCK," THEE RUSTED SATELLITES GATHER AND SING, A Silver Mt. Zion is able to come into its own. The group is still essentially the same six-piece as on the last album, with the addition of amateur choir on the first track; but with the steady addition of more confident vocals, and a sense of dynamics with more than three settings, the band accomplishes really epic, emotional music in a direction that Godspeed seems to rarely explore - there's some hope here, for one thing, and it really takes hold.

Each of these four lengthy tracks, although fully post-rock in their sound, has a prog-epic's sense of song construction. We get some reasonably complex dynamics, certainly going beyond the force restraint and melancholy of the first two albums. We get some strong melodic themes that recur the way a competently written theme ought to - songs aren't linear affairs, and at that length they ought not to be. Its true that some part of the length of each of these tunes is devoted to post-rock builds that could be seen as excessive and slow - but they are layered and arranged with such delicacy and beauty that the slight repetition can be excused. On the first track, the amateur choir takes nonsensical do-re-mi lyrics and uses them to hypnotic effect - though not professional, the lack of cookie-cutter crispness lends the affair a soulfulness and sincerity that can really be appreciated. These move slowly through about half the song with similarly building accompaniment that employs some familiar tricks - that is, until everything drops out, a mournful violin and guitar duet comes in over some swirling organic ambience before the full band meets them again and carries the song home. It's a really excellent excursion, and this whole album is flowing with a very perceptible energy that really defies logic. Take, for example, the other three songs. On previous ASMZ records, Efrim has only contributed vocals to one or two songs per disc - these are sincere and heartfelt, but usually the lowest points of their respective discs. Well, either Efrim got more confident, or was more drunk during the recording session, because the vocals are no longer really a hindrance. I would say the lyrics are a bit at a loss sometimes, and certainly Efrim is a sloppy singer with a fierce indie-boy streak in him, but he does a full on rockstar performance, using his inflection to make the words uglier, more desperate, more pathetic, or more hopeful and positive depending on the situation. The instrumentation is classic rock ensemble, basically string quartet and rock combo in one, but it suits the tone well too - just as the band has lost their fear of over-the-top emotional climaxes with this record, they haven't forgetten how to cut back, shut up more than half the band for the sake of a genuine quiet moment that is truly an evocative musical accomplishment.

As far as evolutions go, this may be a minor musical one, but even if it has to drag some new influences into the post-rock mold kicking and screaming, A Silver Mt. Zion gets it there. There are still some fairly implicit political statements made with this music too, as with many of the recording artists in the Constellation label fold, but the emotions conjured by this music are more broad and can be enjoyed regardless. Maybe a Silver Mt Zion is really just Godspeed's more abstract little sibling in theory, but in practice the music makes a fundamentally different expression that is dynamic and well arranged, but also raw, jagged and emotional in a masterful way. This is truly a worthwhile release, even if you've grown cynical of your Godspeed and Mogwai albums years ago.

morpheusdraven | 4/5 |


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