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A Silver Mt. Zion - Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards CD (album) cover


A Silver Mt. Zion


Post Rock/Math rock

3.59 | 78 ratings

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4 stars Originally made up of 3 members from 'Godspeed You! Black Emperor', 'A Silver Mt. Zion' (SMZ) recruited 3 more members to expand their band for their second album 'Born Into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward'. The original members were guitarist Efrim Menuck who founded the band to work on ideas that didn't fit into the music of GY!BE and he enlisted violinist Sophie Trudeau and bassist Thierry Amar. The new members that were brought on for this album were guitarist Ian Ilavsky, cellist Becky Foon and violinist Jessica Moss. Drums on this album are played by Eric Craven who was not an official member. The name off the band was also expanded to 'The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band'.

The music would also begin to rely more on vocals sung mostly by Menuck who has a very distinctive voice that can be hard to listen to at first, but also has very emotional delivery that you get used to. The music is also based on the post rock/punk sound. Menuck uses punk rock sensibilities in his music but with much expansion in the basic unrefined sound made famous by the punk movement.

The first track is 'Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats of Fire Are Falling From the Sky!' Starting out with echoing percussive sounds, the track seems ambient at first, but soon strings start playing a mournful, yet lovely melody which is a little unsettling with a slight dissonance. Soon, the strings back off a bit and a new, pensive melody is introduced by a piano. Intensity increases some as layers of strings get added along with an atmospheric bowed guitar, but it mostly stays soft.

'This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Birds Fallen' starts with some interesting sounds possibly to imitate birds, then atmospheric guitars, one high pitched and one lower, play spooky counter melodies, and then strings come in later giving the coldness more depth. As it continues, the music seems to shimmer like reflecting light.

'Built Then Burnt (Hurrah! Hurrah!)' begins with subdued spoken word like the reading of some dramatic passage. Soon violins and echoing guitars fade in slowly, again with a slow and pensive melody. There isn't much of an increase until you reach the end there is a sudden noisy crescendo and the track follows directly into the next track.

'Take These Hands and Throw Them in the River' continues to build from the last track and is the first time on the album that Efrim sings. Tense strings continue to churn under his intense and abrasive vocals. Guitars play a drone that increases in volume until around the 3 minute mark, then they drop out. Strings continue to build tension and soon vocals begin with a new melody and things intensify again and then drop off at 5 minutes to the sound of chirping birds and a very subdued drone that you have to listen closely to even hear.

'Could've Moved Mountains . . . ' starts off very quietly as a lone guitar softly plays slowly over a quiet drone. If you listen closely, you can hear soft vocals singing, almost indiscernible. The guitar slowly increases in volume while another guitar chimes along quietly. At 4 minutes, a violin establishes a more discernable melodic line and the guitar becomes more dynamic. After a while, more strings join in and the guitar is pushed to the back until they eventually fade and we're left with the lone guitar again, but more intense this time, and the vocals become slightly louder. Soon the strings return, bringing percussion with them this time, though it is quite minimal. Intensity builds and then levels off and we are left with voices.

'Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk W/You' emerges from the last track with a cello and piano playing off of each other.

'C'monCOMEON (Loose an Endless Longing)' immediately begins at full volume with the full band and a lot more percussion than what we have heard so far on the album. Even though there have been a few loud sections in the music to this point, they have usually been slow to develop. This track is a complete contrast of all of that with a lot more noise and sound. It all drops off at 3:45 and suddenly becomes atmospheric, with effects coming from soft feedback. A layered brass section fades in from this and churning guitars get dragged in with them, then chaotic percussion quickly fades in. This establishes a huge wall of noise by 5:30 and continues until it fades at the end at just after 8 minutes.

'Triumph of Our Tired Eyes' starts with a guitar playing an arpeggio and Efrim provides vocals again and it's joined by melodic strings and minimal percussion.

This album uses dynamics through repetition by increasing volume and layers as in the first album, but also relies on vocals and minimalism more. There are still loud passages, but even with the expanded line up, the power is in the quieter sections. The music is beautiful but it also has an underlying tension and some noisy pay offs, just fewer times than some of their future albums. It is good to hear the band experiment and not just rely on copying the GY!BE sound, but expanding on it. However, the bad thing is that with trying new things, SMZ shows their vulnerability. This will improve at times, but there are other times when the punk sentimentality just goes a bit over the top. However, SMZ still remains one of my favorite post rock/experimental bands.

TCat | 4/5 |


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