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


A Silver Mt. Zion


Post Rock/Math rock

3.61 | 42 ratings

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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.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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