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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

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2 stars The third offering from the Mt. Zion (etc. etc.) collective takes a dip a little in terms of being interesting or innovative. They try (I think), but sometimes innovation can backfire. That’s probably why this is called experimental music.

I can’t decide if the cheap-looking cover is simply a reflection of apathy on the part of the band, or if they actually thought it was clever. I didn’t.

The music is scored quite a bit different than previous albums. This time the band takes more of a ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’ approach, with only four tracks that wind on for more than ten minutes each. Like the album that would follow, this one starts of with some sort of recording of what I assume to be Sophie Trudeau sounding a bit like an annoying participant in some sort of rehearsal. There are actually some fairly decent female backing harmonies here that add a nice new dimension to the music, but overall the vocals take the form of a polyphonic type of chanting that I used to see bald guys in white robes do in the Denver airport while trying to sell me posies. Tim DeLaughter and his Polyphonic Spree actually already traveled this ground and frankly they are much better at it, so maybe the Mt. Zion folks should stick to what they’re good at.

Anyway, that pretty much describes the first track “So Some Lonesome Corners So Many Flowers Bloom”, Menuck and some other guy (bassist Thierry Amar maybe?) doing their chanting thing with the rest of the group forming a kind of uber-creepy choral backing. This was actually kind of interesting the first couple of times I heard it, but if I want really good pseudo-religious chanting I’ll buy a Gregorian monks CD.

Eventually the singing fades away and the ubiquitous strings take center stage, but by the time they manage to work up a slightly frenzied crescendo I realize it’s really the drummer and Menuck’s guitar doing most of the work and I kind of lose interest.

“Babylon was built on fire/Starsnostars” takes forever to get going, starting with just silence and slowly adding a pulsating guitar, then strings, then some bells and electronic static (I assume that’s not actually from the studio tapes), and eventually Menuck starts with the singing again. By the band’s third album I have actually tired of this, and am distracting a bit by Thierry’s upright bass, which is more prominent here than I recall in any previous work by the band. There appears to be some sort of experiment in quadraphonic vocals toward the end, but since I don’t have a fancy home entertainment system it just ends up sounding like one of my speakers is cutting out. I actually have to admit I didn’t like this track much and have skipped it several times when playing this CD.

“American motor over smoldered field” starts off with one male and one female voice singing what sort of sounds like some fifties hillbilly tune, or maybe an old Green on Red recording. Just an aside, but every time I hear this album I picture Trudeau, violinist Jessica Moss, and cellist Rebecca Foon standing on a concrete studio floor barefoot with hairy armpits and baggy tie-died tshirts, looking bored. That’s probably rude, but hey – I can’t control my thoughts, I blame the music.

This one has a very cool buildup in the middle though, as energetic as anything Mt. Zion have done to-date, with the guitar dominating but both violins and the cello working themselves to a frenzy alongside. Unfortunately this doesn’t last nearly long enough and we’re left with the spacey violins and Menuck’s brain-addled ramblings again to close the song out.

The band saves the best for last on this album. “Goodbye desolate railyard” is an excellent tune, although quite a departure for these guys. The song starts out with acoustic guitar which is soon joined by Menuck’s Kermit the Frog vocals, but here he’s at least fully coherent and I can follow the lyrics. They don’t make much sense, but I can follow them. Here he really does sound like the guy from Green on Red, by the way. This is a very stark work, mostly piano and one violin and Menuck singing like a dying cat. There is an extended instrumental buildup in the middle here as well, but this one sounds like the quittin’ time whistle at a chicken processing plant played over the sound of a freight train being loaded and sent off into the night. Clever maybe, but drawn out much too long to really hold the listener’s attention.

I really do like these guys, this album aside. This one certainly doesn’t represent their finest moment. The ‘clever’ sound effects mostly backfire, the arrangements are largely listless and don’t seem to lead anywhere, and Menuck should really quit singing. There’s more good music coming from our crazy Canadian cousins on subsequent albums, but this one is for collectors only. Two stars.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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