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A Silver Mt. Zion

Post Rock/Math rock

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A Silver Mt. Zion Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards album cover
3.59 | 78 ratings | 13 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats Of Fire Are Falling From The Sky! (9:07)
2. This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Birds Fallen (5:47)
3. Built Then Burnt (Hurrah! Hurrah!) (5:41)
4. Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River (6:58)
5. Could've Moved Mountains (10:59)
6. Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk W/You (4:48)
7. C'mon Comeon (Loose an Endless Longing) (8:06)
8. The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes (6:54)

Total Time: 58:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Efrim Menuck / guitar, piano, electronics, vocals
- Ian Ilavsky / guitar, organ
- Sophie Trudeau / violin, vocals
- Jessica Moss / violin, vocals
- Rebecca Foon / cello
- Thierry Amar / double bass, vocals

- Sara Menuck / vocals
- Chad Jones ("Frankie Sparo") / vocals
- Mischa Menuck / spoken word
- Jonah Fortune / trumpet & trombone (7)
- Eric Craven / drums

Releases information

Attributed to "Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & The Tra-la-la Band"

Artwork: Nadia Moss

CD Constellation ‎- cst018-2 (2001, Canada)

2xLP Constellation ‎- CST018-1 (2001, Canada)

Thanks to useful_idiot for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy A SILVER MT. ZION Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards Music

A SILVER MT. ZION Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards ratings distribution

(78 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

A SILVER MT. ZION Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by frenchie
5 stars Thanks to Useful Idiot for giving me this album for it is definetly a masterpiece of progressive post rock. This one is definetly up there with "F#A#oo", "Agaetis Bryjun" and "Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven" on my list. This is definetly a landmark and defining post rock album.

The similarities to founding band GYBE! aren't exactly subtle, but there also unique aspects to this band too. This album consists of beautiful organic sounds made by a lush array of rock and orchestral instruments to make a winning combo. This album succeeds in creating lengthy, moody and uplifting compositions (mostly instrumental) that have amazing build ups and are certainly progressive. I have always seen ASMZ as being a weaker band than GYBE but they have many redeeming qualities. ASMZ are a lot more digestable on this album. There are lengthy compositions but they are definitely less demanding, although some patience and perhaps 2 or 3 spins are required for this album to click.

This album almost plays like one giant suite. The tracks seem to flow into each other remarkably well and it wouldn't be such a rare thing as their founding band often made lengthy suites.The standout tracks on this album are tracks 1, 3, 4 and 6 for showing off the true power of each musician working together to build up epic atmoshpheric and uplifting pieces of music. There is plenty of power and emotion to be found on this album. The other tracks add different moods and tones to the album. This certainly is a masterpiece which is proved by its ability to make totally out there music, yet being able to make it seem addictive, tolerable and listenable. While at times this, like all post rock, can be a challenge, the rewards after each listen are well worth the effort.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!

This second ASMZ is maybe the most mysterious and enigmatic of their records but also the one that epitomize best what ASMZ is all about, but this still makes it hard to describe - a post-rock album being never easy (and downright difficult sometimes) to review. Obscure and sober artwork sleeve design with the fewest information possible about both the music and the musicians are not helping this reviewer.

The first track is starting with nightmarish rumblings slowly developing into a charming celestial and ethereal atmosphere with a superb guitar that might remind the most contemplative Steve Howe moments. This same atmosphere is the main feature in the second track but not as finely crafted, while the next track plunges into oblivion. The record gets a much needed second wind when a humming violin and full strings behind it as well as urgent chanting prepare the listener for a rocky and eerie ride providing a second excellent highlight on the fourth track. Soon followed by a very tense and beautiful yet sombre three tracks where the strings play a central role and make the backbone of the album. The last tracks starts with a return to the ever-plaintive ASMZ vocals and a very calm exit to a great but not flawless album.

If the prospective proghead is to investigate the GYBE! offshoot, he might try to locate this album first and check out if he likes it before venturing further on as the other albums are even more intimate and personal. Clearly their better album so far!!!

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra/Tra la la Band Mountain Reveries Godspeed To My Dead Dog, or whatever the heck they are called now, are probably one of the top two or three post-rock bands still in the game these days. Like the seed that spawned them (Godspeed You! Black Emperor), the band releases their stuff on Constellation Records in those goofy but presumably environment-friendly cardboard cases that get all bent up in my CD rack. They also include the same types of abstract images and occasional ramblings cum manifestos, but I’ve long since decided that these are just a semi-intentional diversion for listeners to keep them from getting too close to the members of the band themselves. At least that’s what I tell myself – half that stuff makes no sense in the context of the actual music.

These musicians, or at least cult leader (er., guitarist) Efrim Menuck have seemed to have internalized one of the guiding principles of expressionist art in general, which is that if a concept is made abstract and ill-defined enough, people will tend to draw their own conclusions as to what the heck it’s all about. One other principle seems to have maybe escaped them, which is that given a scenario but very little information, ten different people are likely to come to ten or twelve wildly different conclusions. The point is, who really know what this music is supposed to be about? Possibly the band members themselves, but largely they aren’t telling. So I’m free to just make stuff up – who’s going to stop me?

Anyway, this is the second offering from the band (that part I’m not making up), released on the heels of Godspeed’s ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists…’, so it was kind of lost in the thousand-watt spotlight that album garnered. Too bad, because this is actually a considerably more interesting recording than Mt. Zion’s first album, which was stylistically somewhat simpler than the Godspeed paradigm, but was also slash-your- wrists depressing. This album is depressing too (frankly, the vast majority of stuff coming from Constellation Records is either depressing or negative or angry or some combination of the three), but every once and a while there is just the slightest turn of a bow from one of the cellists, and a very faint glimmer of light and hope escapes from the drudgery and into the room. It’s a remarkable talent these guys have for ‘speaking’ through their music, and primarily through their stringed instruments.

The other thing about Mt. Zion music is that it has an inescapable feminine touch. I cannot explain what I mean by that, but it’s there. Just thought that was worth pointing out.

The opening track is "Brothers! Sisters! Small Boats of Fire are Falling from the Sky!", a rather disjointed composition that eventually sorts itself out between the weird percussion and reverberating guitar and builds into one of those patented Mile End crescendos that made these guys’ parent band so hugely successful. The difference here is this one will make you cry. It’s just so damn mournful. It’s like a call to arms for every angst-ridden young person within hearing radius to start swallowing pills or preparing to jump in front of a train. Fortunately it’s only music, but be sure and have any sharp objects stashed away safely if you play this on a dark night when you are alone.

“This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird's Fallen” follows, and it sounds pretty much like the title describes. It’s also full of mournful strings, as well as the odd animal-inspired sound effects that typify a Mt. Zion album. And like a lot of their songs, it’s a lot shorter than the stuff Godspeed typically put out. This one isn’t quite as depressing as the first track, mostly just the guitar is a downer here, but the cellos rise slightly above and offer a glimmering sense of human interaction in an otherwise pretty stark track. I strongly suspect these guys spend too many long winters deprived of sunlight way up there in Canada. It’s really not good for your mental health, you know.

Some little kid opens “Built Then Burnt (Hurrah! Hurrah!)” with a diatribe about monsters roaming the hills and human carnage and so forth – could be a scary fireside story or a sociopathic manifesto, hard to say. The strings and guitar are very similar to the previous track, but here again the strings are just a bit this side of gloomy, and the listener is left wondering where this album is actually heading.

Menuck finally pipes in with his Roger Waters meets Warren Zevon trembling vocals on “Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River”, amid some pretty stormy and angry violin work. Unlike some Mt. Zion fans, I really don’t care for his singing and wish he’d leave that to someone else, but I must admit they do set an appropriately creepy tone.

“Could've Moved Mountains” is the longest track on the album at around eleven minutes. These are some of the same string musicians as on the Godspeed albums, so it’s not surprising the sound is somewhat similar, especially since Menuck is also playing guitar in the same slow, brooding manner he did on ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’. He also mumbles something incoherent from time to time, giving this a bit of a Pink Floyd circa late- seventies feel. There’s something of a buildup here, but no explosion, which is okay I guess but a bit unnerving.

The highlight of the album comes with “Tho’ You Are Gone I Still Often Walk With You”, a piano-heavy track that sort of sounds like some of the soundtracks to the various Halloween slasher films of the seventies and eighties. The piano is a bit repetitive without the distinctive variations that occur on most other tracks, and the overall feeling is one of resigned fatigue. Beautiful but sad.

On “C'mon Comeon (Loose an Endless Longing)” the mood improves measurably, with an almost happy crescendo midway through and a slow, somewhat peaceful lull following. This I suppose is where the album was headed all along, to a hesitantly optimistic finale.

Which comes in the form of “The Triumph of our Tired Eyes”, which winds this whole experience to a close with more of Menuck’s Final Cut-like vocals and accompanying stuttering guitar work. The string passage midway through is one of the most beautiful passages on any Mt. Zion album I have ever heard, without hardly any note of depression. The little kid closes the song and the album with a quick little children’s rhyme ditty, and we’re out.

I keep buying Mt. Zion’s albums and listening to them because they keep changing just enough to keep me interested. It’s hard to say if that’s because the varying members of the collective are growing themselves, or if the lineup changes are causing the variations. Or, since cynicism is certainly an acceptable mood when listening to any of the bands in the Mile End clique, maybe it’s just a very, very good marketing ploy. But I doubt it.

This one is better than the last, and better than the one that will follow. It’s not Godspeed, but at least these guys are still putting out music and their forbearers aren’t, so four stars for that.


Review by Prog-jester
3 stars More of the same

This is what ASMZ don’t have – variety of moods and arrangements. GYBE were a brilliant band, a bit “samey” at times too, but never plain boring or predictable. ASMZ has this little flaw – they are predictable, maybe, not as much as any other Post-Rock band, but still not enough interesting to sit through the whole album without losing attention sometimes. Astonishing sense of melody (that marks every GYBE epic) is also missing there. But there are vocals, acoustic (almost chamber!) sound and the same way depressing and dark nature of the music. Recommended for ASMZ/GYBE/related stuff devotees, but don’t expect revelations there.

Review by Mellotron Storm
2 stars This one is similar in style to their debut but if it's possible it's even more melanchoilic. This one is also lacking the emotion I felt with their debut, it just seems uninspired to me.

"Sisters ! Brothers ! Small Boats Of Fire Are Falling From The Sky !" opens with percussion of some sort before violin comes in and builds. Piano and guitar join the melody in this very sad song. "This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Birds Fallen" is slower paced with plenty of violin melodies leading the way. "Built Then Burnt (Hurrah ! Hurrah !)" opens with over 2 minutes of spoken female words that are joined by violin early on, these violin melodies continue throughout this track. I really found these first three songs hard to enjoy.

"Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River" is better. There is a sense of urgency with the vocals and the violin play throughout this song. It closes with birds singing. "Could've Moved Mountains" has barely audible vocals as the guitar gently plays. We get some violin before 4 1/2 minutes. "Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk W / You" is dominated by piano and violin with plenty of tempo changes. "C'Mon Comeon (Loose An Endless Longing)" builds to a powerful sound 5 1/2 minutes in. "The Triumph Of Our Tired Eyes" has those vocals that have a hint of Neil Young to them as guitars dominate the instrumental section. Violin comes in later. This is my favourite song and actually the only song I really like.

Their debut I rated 4 stars but I really debated between 3 or 4 stars. So barely 4 stars you could say. This one as I mentioned in the intro doesn't hold a candle to their debut on a number of fronts.

Review by Warthur
4 stars When A Silver Mt. Zion's debut album proved more successful than expected, Efraim was emboldened to make this Godspeed You Black Emperor side project more than a mere one-off. The followup album was actually released about a month or so after 9/11, which makes its doomy Biblical title rather more timely than anticipated, but even outside of that context this is a haunting and troubling meditation on the struggles of imperfect people in an imperfect world. It isn't quite as compelling and the debut, and the band seem to struggle with finding ways to usefully integrate vocals into their music, but on the whole it gives plenty of reason to believe that the Silver Mt. Zion project has a long way to go yet.
Review by Prog Leviathan
2 stars Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upwards is overall a good post-rock release that fits within many conventions of the genre: slow, melancholic music that features a diverse instrumentation that builds and builds to noisy, abstract, and challenging crescendos. As a casual fan of the genre, there's a handful of interesting songs to enjoy, but not enough to make it memorable. It's highlights are when the players create a gentle rise and fall of lush strings that give the impression of one gently bobbing on ocean swells or walking amid fields of grain. At its best the album is relaxing and subtle. It's the more experimental parts that don't resonate with me. Some tracks have voice overs or singing that sounds frail and incomplete; others use shrill tones to induce tension or a sense of confusion, which aren't supported enough emotionally by the quite parts that precede. The songs don't strike me as being especially interesting or complex; however, the group's playing is solid and subtle. I especially enjoyed the acoustic bass work and warm, rich guitar vibrato heard on some songs.

That's not to say that these criticisms make Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upwards a bad album, just not one that resonates with me. It may appeal to fans more interested in this minimalist and moody genre, but not for casual fans.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars Efrim Menuck meant for his first release as A SILVER MT ZION to be a one-off tribute to his beloved dog Wanda who passed away while touring as a band member of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, but since it was met with such such positive enthusiasm, he decided to keep releasing new albums as a side project and therefore since this was indeed a new band instead of merely a solo tribute project he expanded the three full time members on the first release and doubled it to six (adding contrabass, cello and extra violins). There also remain three additional session musicians as on the debut with the addition of trumpet and trombone. Menuck also followed the changing-up-the-name game inspired by the great Sun Ra who would change his backing band name every few albums. So on this second release, BORN INTO TROUBLE AS THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD is credited to THEE SILVER MT ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND. Now isn't that a mouthful? Sometimes it begins with THE SILVER etc so i assume the THEE came about as a database issue.

Musically speaking BORN INTO TROUBLE etc continues the same kind of apocalyptic and mournful classical chamber music mixed with post-rock that suited the tribute to Wanda so well. The album contains eight sprawling tracks but none overly long that utilize the typical post-rock playbook and create riffs that build loops which are then accompanied by other instruments joining in until reaching a climax of some sort. For the most part the "rock" part of the equation doesn't play much of a part in the second album like the first as it is primarily built upon slow brooding violins accompanied by the other instruments merely adding disheartening atmospheric moods but on some tracks like "Take These Hands And Throw Them In The RIver," the pace picks up after the lugubrious intro and unlike most of the album has sung vocals (there are some spoken word parts as well). The heavier passages are very similar to the softer ones except that they have a much more frenetic delivery of the repetitive loops of violin riffs with a cacophonous din of accompanying sounds that make it sound more like the Godspeed! project. "C'monCOMEON" is probably the most rock oriented track as it has heavily distorted guitar and the most energetic percussive elements on the entire album.

Overall the music on BORN INTO TROUBLE AS THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD is much more diverse with all the different instrumental parts sounding more like the first Godspeed! album than the first SILVER MT ZION one but still retains a significant amount of the funeral march anthemic styles of the debut. The subject matter is supposedly inspired by the Book Of Job from the Bible with the title also purportedly taken from the scriptures. Menuck successfully found new ways to expand the debut's sound and even though many of these new ideas came directly from his Godspeed! You Black Emperor style, the album sounds completely distinct as it less hypnotic than Godspeed! releases and creates more of a classical chamber rock type of feel with more melodies that at times sound a tad Floydian in a space rock sort of way accompanied with lots of echo guitars. Add the heavy outbursts although sparse and the weird electronic atmospherics and voila! a satisfying near hour experience of musical bliss. No sophomore slump on this one. In fact i actually prefer listening to this second offering for it has a grander scope of moods and emotional explorations than the extremely misery focused vibe of the first.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Latest members reviews

2 stars The Weakest SMZ album. This album breaks with the very quiet and sombre mood of the first Silver Mt Zion (SMZ) album, and instead adds drums and electric guitars/distortion. It is the weakest SMZ album in my opinion. It actually seems rushed, and the last few tracks are quite poorly recorded (to ... (read more)

Report this review (#1706976) | Posted by Walkscore | Friday, March 31, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars One of my favourite bands ever is no doubt Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I truly believe every album of theirs is a masterpiece, so what did i expect from this offshoot band with an even longer name? Another masterpiece, naturally. Born into trouble as the sparks fly upwards was released in 2001 ... (read more)

Report this review (#161661) | Posted by Evans | Tuesday, February 12, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars HARD TO EXPLAIN, EASY TO ENJOY One of the best things in Post-Rock is the way you can enjoy it all alone and how many emotions you can feel with it through all their passages. The first time I played this album I was on my way to work and I simply loved the way it took me to one of the most c ... (read more)

Report this review (#119406) | Posted by MadcapLaughs84 | Monday, April 23, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars With additions to the band, and even name, the band grows. Their sound also grows, horns are now present making the music more textured. The emotional strength of this album is very powerful, and very detailed. The full potential of the band is presented here in droning beautiful texture thank to ... (read more)

Report this review (#41889) | Posted by | Sunday, August 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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