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A Silver Mt. Zion - Kollaps Tradixionales CD (album) cover


A Silver Mt. Zion

Post Rock/Math rock

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4 stars So, it has leaked) I believe there's Zions' hand in this act, like two years ago with "13 Blues" album, which was also leaked more than a month before its release. And this is not the only thing similar to "13 Blues" - in fact, musically "Kollaps Tradixionales" sounds like a previous album's little brother.

Again there's something weird with tracklist: 4 original songs are divided into 7 tracks. I've already heard the first two ones from live bootlegs; "There's A Light" is soft and emotional hymn a-la "Blindblindblind", pretty uplifting, and "Metal Bird" is on the contrary heavy and brooding tune, filled with complex signatures, groovy riffs and powerful vocals. Two other tracks, 3-part "Kollaps" epic and closing "'Piphany Rambler", follow almost the same scheme, maintained by "13 Blues": arrangements are less subtle/more rocky, lyrics and vocals are the same way disturbing (in a good sense), mellow melodies replaced with roaring guitars and boy I love it! If you liked two recent Zion's albums, you'll definitely like this one as well, though it's neither groundbreaking nor their best. Highly recommended!

Report this review (#260320)
Posted Monday, January 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars I am disappointed to give such a low rating for this band and album but... it's the best I could make myself give. 2.5 stars would be accurate but it's not enough to reach the 3 stars.

I'll explain it briefly; the music is good, at some points very strong post-rock, great ambiance and vibe but it's the singing... the singing straight from the beginning killed it, absolutely horrible. When I first listened to it I had to stop it within the first minutes of the first track and brace myself for another go. Then I heard it again, grinded my teeth through the first track. Accepted it reluctantly, hoping for the best. Second track, same thing, the singing put me off, I could not enjoy anything of it. Had it been entirely instrumental, it would have deserved a 4 stars in my opinion.

Report this review (#269247)
Posted Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album feels like a refinement of the Silver Mt. Zion "sound": if you played these tracks to someone familiar with SMZ's discography (not just the first couple of albums), then they'd be able to identify them immediately. The album consists of four songs, each around 15 minutes in length, split into seven tracks. This, on paper, makes the album seem similar to This Is Our Punk-Rock... and 13 Blues. If you're looking to add a "different" album to your collection, and already have one of these albums, then this album should not be number one on your priority list.

Having said that, the songs on this album are among SMZ's finest. "There is a Light" and "Metal Bird" are the stand-outs, perhaps unsurprising given the fact that they've already been played live on tour extensively. "There is a Light" is almost a traditional prog-epic, rising and sinking, with a finale soaring with emotion. "Metal Bird" is a much more straightforward, almost hard-rock-like track, with a mellow instrumental break, perhaps overall the most intense track in SMZ's back catalogue. The title track/s and "'Piphany Rambler" are more straightforward SMZ tracks (by their standards, at least).

Overall this album feels more intense, probably due to the change in drummer. It's no more aggressive (if anything, this is one of the most positive, uplifting releases SMZ have put out to date), but there is comparatively little restraint from the drummer (I forget the name).

Again, this is a very vocal-dominated album. If you can't stand Efrim and co.'s singing, then this won't appeal to you. But if you can get past that "hurdle" - I use the term with hesitation as I can't think of another vocal style which would fit - then you'll be in for a treat. The more straightforward feel of the album, without sacrificing the overall musical integrity of the band, may turn people on to SMZ who have previously been put off by the vocals or occasionally sparse instrumental meandering. An early candidate for album of the year? Quite possibly.

Report this review (#273878)
Posted Wednesday, March 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars OK, this could have been great, great compositions, not almost, but totally classical like, but with very distinct Prog touch. You can feel the atmosphere better than ever before I experienced in Post Rock genre.

However, there's one thing that puts me away / off / out a lot and it's vocal department. It's terrible, it's annoying. He sounds like drunk emo youngster, even he's actually good, in a hippie way of this word, looking guy who handles his guitar well.

But not in all tracks, it's very tiresome, very unbearable in first song, because it just doesn't fit here. This song should be symphonic, should be nice and pleasant. Strings are great, other instruments are great, but his damned singing isn't simply fitting here.

I see that one reviewer before noticed this too (I looked on previous reviews to see if someone sees things like me). However, second song isn't slow and harmonic (would be harmonic if it wasn't for vocals), second song is different. Fast paced, very suitable for this kind of voice.

There are also instrumental only parts, so they're OK too, but the last song is again number one type. Sadly.

3(+), I don't like to mock vocalist so much, but what can I do if this is a barrier that prevents me from enjoying it to the full. It could have been good. Especially given that it's not usual to have vocals in Post Rock. Guess why.

Report this review (#280287)
Posted Sunday, May 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars It's not often that an established band reverses itself once the downward slide into complacency gains momentum. Inertia is a difficult thing to overcome and requires change, reinvention and innovation which are often painful and messy. When Menuck and company pushed out '13 Blues for Thirteen Moons' in 2008 after three years of recording silence I saw and heard all the signs of a band who had played themselves out and, even worse, seemed to have started taking themselves way too seriously. Somewhere along the line the tension inherent in that situation must have come to a head with Eric Craven, Rebecca Foon and Ian Ilavsky departing in 2008 after a European and North American tour supporting their last release.

Shift to late summer 2009 and the band found themselves in the studio once again, smaller but apparently reinvigorated with Constellation stable-mate David Payant (Evangelista, Vic Chesnutt) as well as a four-piece brass section that included three saxophonists and longtime Montréal music scene fixture Gordon Allen. The result is the most vibrant and sonically appealing recordings from the band since 2005's 'Horses in the Sky'. Change may be painful but in this case the results are both arresting and positive.

Efrim Menuck isn't likely to ever change much, and his squalid vocals and torrid guitar work once again take up big chunks of every track along with the post-apocalyptic bass notes of Thierry Amar. But unlike '13 Blues?', the whiny strains of Sophie Trudeau and Jessica Moss' violins are allowed to resurface and play an integral part of the music, much to my delight as I'm sure to theirs. The interplay between Trudeau and Moss was always one that elevated Mt Zion's music from just another Menuck sideshow to something that approached the legendary sumptuousness of their previous incarnation Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and I'm thrilled to hear the band revitalize that aspect of their sound.

But more importantly the band seems to have moved away from the narcissistic bent of '13 Blues?' in favor of a musical mood that better represents and celebrates the blend of post- punk attitude and discordant sonic daring that made 'He Has Left Us Alone?' and 'Born Into Trouble?' such revolutionary and memorable recordings back at the beginning of the millennium.

The opening tracks "There is a Light" and "I Built Myself a Metal Bird, I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds" (the latter split into two tracks on the CD) are both compositions that debuted during the band's 2008 tour, and here they set the stage for a three-part title track that demonstrates three different faces of the band which have all been seen before but never combined in such a striking way as they are on this album. The middle portion "Collapse Traditional" is a clear throwback to 'He Has Left Us Alone?' while the bookend sections both feature the band's powerful string section to great effect. And I'm not a student of music theory so I could be totally wrong, but I could swear I hear the chord progressions of the folk standard "Scarborough Fair" coming off Trudeau's strings midway through "Kollapz Tradixional (Thee Olde Dirty Flag)". Someone should pick up on that and have some fun decomposing the notes and chords to make sense of it.

Finally "'Piphany Rambler" is just that, a rambling, 15-minute plus work that vacillates between turgid percussion/guitar crescendos and laconic, almost flaccid ebbs with understated strings and Menuck's anti-establishment, somewhat negative rambling. Honestly though I'm so thrilled to hear a great record by these guys after nearly half a decade that I don't mind Efrim's indulgences at all, and at times find the sound to be almost nostalgic.

In all this is the best thing the band has done in quite a while, and although I was ready to write them off at least two or three years ago I have to believe their reawakening is both arresting and much welcomed by fans (myself included). "'Piphany Rambler" alone keeps this from being a masterpiece, not that it isn't a decent song but because it seems to be an unattainable attempt to recapture the grandeur that was Godspeed, and as such falls just a bit short. Otherwise this is a very, very pleasant surprise and an album that should find itself into the collection of just about every serious post-rock, GY!BE, and progressive music fan. A very solid four stars and highly recommended.


Report this review (#301557)
Posted Saturday, October 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Silver Mt. Zion trim back their lineup a little but play a somewhat less minimalistic style than the previous 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons on their latest album, Kollaps Tradixionales. The band's always plotted a swaying, uneven course between focusing on soundscapes and crafting songs, and this time around the pendulum swings a little closer to the song end of the scale, though these are sprawling, ramshackle songs which always seem on the verge of disintegrating into loose jams but never quite do it. Those who have followed the band's career will find few surprises here, just good old-fashioned nightmare post-apocalyptic post-rock like only the Godspeed You Black Emperor stable can brew.
Report this review (#744664)
Posted Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Takes Longer but Grows on You.

I just submitted my review of their most recent album when I noticed this album gets weaker reviews than most of their other albums. In a way I can understand - this one takes longer for its merits to become clear and it is less likely to grab reviewers on first listen. However, after having listened to this album for six years now, I think this is up there with their best albums. Probably the reason for the lower scores is Efrim's singing is a bit more tortured than usual on this one, and his singing is right up from on the long opening piece "There is a Light". I have to admit not being as keen on this song when I first heard it, but it has really grown on me, and is today one of my favourite songs of theirs. There is a very similar feel to the long closer, "Piphany Rambler", which has Efrim singing (rambling indeed) all over this, with much of the same feel as "There is a Light". This one probably takes even longer to warm up to, but again, after first being a bit turned off by it, I (now) really like it. In the middle are some more great pieces. "I Built Myself a Metal Bird" is distorted hard-driving progressive punk (in fact, the tune is in 7/8 time!), but what I find particularly great about the middle part of this album is that the band is here improvising at length. "I Fed my Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds" is the improvised extension of the first Metal Bird track. Similarly the two Kollaps Tradixionales pieces include improvisation, and so while these are (for me) the weaker tracks on the album, they are still quite good and indeed essential to the listening experience of the album. I like this album a lot more than 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, which is less well put together and less musical over all. I also like it better than Horses in the Sky, which has some great songs but for me is uneven. Similar to their most recent album (which I just reviewed), I find Kollaps to be consistently good all the way through.

Some albums are easy to 'get' on first or second listen. Some albums rise quickly at first, but then fall just as quickly after a few listens. This one started lower but kept rising, and only started to plateau after around 20 listens. Even though it is fairly long, I now always listen to this one all the way through - once it is on, I am drawn to hear it out. While most listeners will probably prefer their most recent album over this one on first listen (so, you should get that one first), I actually rate this one a tiny bit higher (after many years). How much you eventually like the album will depend on how much the opening and closing tracks grow on you. But I think it is well worth the time-effort. I give this 8.7 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which also translates to high 4 PA stars.

Report this review (#1707156)
Posted Saturday, April 1, 2017 | Review Permalink

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