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A Silver Mt. Zion - The Pretty Little Lightning Paw  E.P. CD (album) cover


A Silver Mt. Zion


Post Rock/Math rock

3.27 | 23 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Sophie Trudeau (or at least I guess it’s her) takes up where the last album left off with her somewhat annoying voice, ranting about an ‘action committee’ meeting at the beginning of the first song. Not sure why that was necessary. But the rest of this EP takes a definite turn in the right direction after the rather listless ‘This is our punk rock’ album that preceded it.

The guitar/drums/guitar riff that gets laid down on “More Action! Less Tears!” is repeated pretty much without variation for the whole song, but for some reason it works here. Probably because the strings do their dancing all around the rhythm and give the song an anxious and rather expectant feel to it. By the end the band has my attention and I’m actually looking forward to hear what comes next. That and Efrim Menuck doesn’t sing, which is a plus.

The band is back to shorter songs after the somewhat disappointing experiment on ‘This is our punk rock’, with “More Action!” and “Microphones In The Trees” both coming in under ten minutes. “Microphones…” features Menuck’s singing again, but here he is intentionally echoing and modulating his voice courtesy of the the 24-track analog recording panel that captured this album. The lyrics are a bit obscure here as usual, but Menuck isn’t as annoying as usual at least. The Polyphonic Spree/dangerous cult chorale effect comes in on this one, much like on their album from the year before, but here this is only a short passage in an otherwise mostly sonic mood music composition. I actually have this track on a compilation CD that I keep in the car for long drives where I want to stay awake but don’t really want to have to think very hard. It’s that kind of music.

The title track is also the longest on the album, clocking in a one second over ten minutes, although it could have been much shorter. It seems the band has taken the tack on this album of coming up with a kind of appealing riff or two, and simply repeating them as a base from which to operate for the rest of the song. It works for the most part, except that the variations are sometimes not all that interesting. That’s especially true of this song, where the dissonant strings kind if lose their appeal very quickly. The goofy bird noises aren’t all that necessary either, but they aren’t actually annoying so I guess I shouldn’t complain. This is as close to an actual cult-recruiting chant song as anything the band has or will do. I simply can’t get the Polyphonic Spree or the Moonies out of my head any time I hear Menuck chanting and the rest of the band harmonizing behind him. I wonder if there’s some wacky group of outcasts living in a bunker somewhere playing this for their evening self-flagellation-and-snake-handling service. Probably.

All of the songs on this album just kind of wind down to a disinterested finish too, which isn’t particularly disappointing, it’s just a bit disappointing. So I guess it is. Never mind, skip this part.

I actually really like “There's A River In The Valley…”, I just didn’t expect it on a Mt. Zion album. This sounds like some of the bands from the late eighties who tried to take what were basically old folk, bluegrass, or country tunes and rockercise them, usually complete with spacey synthesizers and altered vocals. That’s what is happening here. I can’t remember the names of any of those bands off the top of my head, probably because they pretty much sucked. This song doesn’t though, and the difference is that every single one of these musicians is actually supremely talented, and the quality of every note played shows through. This is a little bit depressing, and the echo on the vocals could have been toned down a bit. But overall this sets a really rustic and expectant mood, and every time I play it I just feel a little bit better about our chances as a human race. Go figure.

This is a definite improvement over the ‘This is our punk rock’ recording, but fails to quite measure up to the band’s debut in terms of complexity, variety, or sense of purpose. It’s a pretty good album though, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for mood music that isn’t too depressing and has a high sonic quality. Three stars.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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