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A Silver Mt. Zion - He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Rooms CD (album) cover


A Silver Mt. Zion


Post Rock/Math rock

3.98 | 116 ratings

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4 stars While touring with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Efrim Menuck's dog died, and this was the first step in A Silver Mt. Zion's birth. Efrim wanted to create this sad music and dedicate it to his dog, but the music was too sad and quiet for the typical sound of GY!BE, so, with the help of two other band members, he wrote and created this record as a single album project which ended up turning into his main project after the temporary breakup of GY!BE. Through the years and albums released as ASMZ, there were a few minor name changes and extensions, but the band grew larger and the music became more expansive and at times, experimental.

This first album however, is very sad and quiet with very few vocals. There is a heavy reliance on violin and very little percussion on this album, it is very pensive and reminiscent. Though not a minimalistic album, it definitely moved away from the dynamic and sometimes loud sounds of GY! BE, but retained a lot of the exploration that was present in that band.

Some reviewers consider this album too slow moving, and it is true to some extent. But the music is haunting and beautiful. The use of piano and strings give it a chamber feel, but the occasional use of guitar and a few stronger passages help the listener to have a little foresight into where the sound was going to develop.

"Broken Chord Can Sing a Little" starts off with a lovely piano introduction with a little build and addition of a few other sounds, then in true GYBE fashion, there is a field recording introduced which seems to be a discussion about death and religion. The sound is a bit apocalyptic, which is not really a surprise, but instead of brashness, we get beauty, though there is a degree of harshness here. "Sit in the Middle..." segues from the field recording and starts to build on a repetitive sound, again some build happens, but not to any extent of the usual post rock climax. Repetition is again used in the lovely "Stumble then Rise..." but this time the motif is expanded into variations as the music continues and this improves the song as it goes on. This is an excellent track and very lovely.

On the next track, we get to hear Efrim sing for the first time. At first listen, his voice is a little brash, but that is what you can expect through the discography to come. The nice thing about his voice to me is it's vulnerability which makes this music so believable and organic. It all works well and if you are familiar with the other works by ASMZ, then the appearance of vocals is actually quite welcome. This is a short piece, yet quite nice. "13 Angels..." is the bright light of the album mentioned in the album title, and is a more positive sound, the music at this point and through most of the rest of the album is more developed and not so repetitive. This carries through "Blown Out Joy", the overall quietness of the album persists with a little build here and there, but to me, it never really gets boring, it is thought inspiring and pensive.

The last track is "For Wanda" which is the final cap to the dedication and the final good-bye to his companion. It is a return to the sadness that was present in the first part of the album, but this time it seems like it is acting as a release, a final release to his dog. It might sound somewhat silly to some people, but his heart is definitely in this music and it is quite a moving tribute.

Though not as developed or as well constructed as later albums, this is still an excellent album. Maybe it's not a masterpiece, but if you are looking for sad and emotional music without a lot of rhythm, then this is a great example of that. Reminders of GYBE are scattered throughout the album and foresight into what was to come are also throughout the album, but it definitely isn't lively, just slow and beautiful. Like I said, the composer's heart is in the music and you can't go wrong when that happens.

TCat | 4/5 |


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