Review Summary: Post Rock bands should consider ripping off these guys.
Being that this is a post rock review, it would be easy to start off by bitching about how the genre is dying, all the crappy bands rip off the actually good ones, and everyone repeats themselves over and over and over again to the point of annoyance.
But *** That.
This Is Our Punk Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather and Sing
from Godspeed You! Black Emperor side project A Silver Mount Zion sets out to destroy all the negative connotations "post rock" implies. A Silver Mount Zion- or "A Silver Mount Zion Orchestra and Tra La La Band with Choir," if you prefer to indulge in their pretention- started out as Godspeed mastermind Efrim Menuck attempting to score music before Godspeed You! Black Emperor disbanded- er, went on "permanent hiatus". Starting out with just "A Silver Mount Zion" for a name before adding on all the ridiculous addendums, the band's sound originally wasn't much different from their mother band: Spacey, dramatic post rock, only with violins and more minimalistic. But the group's development led to an entirely new, rawer style, Menuck pushing the boundaries of post rock just as he did with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The pain in the ass name changes suddenly seem warranted now; on This Is Our Punk Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather and Sing
, they sound completely different than they did on the sparse He Has Left Us Alone...
debut record. Whereas He Has Left Us Alone
's aimed to mesmerize the listener with simple themes building for 5 minutes, This Is Our Punk Rock
immediately asserts itself as exciting, original, and one enjoyable listen in this genre of imitation and repetition.
In escaping the "Godspeed spin-off" sound of their first record, This Is Our Punk Rock
shows A Silver Mount Zion adding a completely new instrument to their repertoire almost never found in their parent band's music: the human voice. Immediately noticeable is the prevalent use of singing, heavily incorporated into the Silver Mt. Zion sound, singing being a generous term in this sentence. The voice that comprises A Silver Mount Zion's vocal work, Efrim Menuck's, sounds untrained to the point of raw- and it's awesome. Menuck, who sounds as though he wandered out of a British punk rock band into compositional madness, sings in each track with a fiery intensity that makes his unprofessionalism sound all the more real. Throughout the record, Menuck sighs and cries earnestly, with a lyrical passion for the political and immediate, with poetic lines like "Packs of helicopters divide across a crowded side/ What angels did you ride as I staggered at your side."
In "Babylon Was Built On Fire", Menuck's desperate tone creates a spectacle of himself, repeating deranged rantings like "Citizens In Their Homes! And Missiles In Their Holes!"
. As the song slowly builds, Menuck adding new vocal themes with each refrain, his anguish becomes palpable, his voice cracking with anxiety, making for an uneasy but hypnotizing listen. This is the crux of A Silver Mount Zion's use of vocals: Despite Efrim Menuck not being a "singer", his words and style create an atmosphere on This Is Our Punk Rock
of tension, paranoia, and fear.
A Silver Mount Zion play to that atmosphere with several textural tricks picked up from Godspeed, including spoken word prefaces and weeping strings. Unlike their mother band however, Silver Mount Zion stay surprisingly song based on This Is Our Punk Rock
for composing a record compiled completely of ten minute plus tracks. They drain away the 5 minute periods of silence and noodling Godspeed became notorious for, never once relinquishing attention. For example, A Silver Mount Zion's use of a choir composed of friends and untrained singers (the "Rusted Satellites" referred to in the album's title) immediately commands attention, as album opener "Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom" begins with several minutes of intense harmonies that though repetetive, are gorgeous to listen to; an immediate climax, breaking the start-soft-get-loud formula of post rock. There are no lyrics. Instead, the group sings elementary degrees of solfeggio commonly taught to elementary schoolers. The simplicity of the vocals here indicate another of the album's major factors: an underlying undertone of sweetness and naivety that breaks through the dark vision created by the dissonance and minor keys A Silver Mount Zion indulges in.
The record briefly flashes glimpses of that innocence here and there; the vocal climax of "American Motor Over Smoldered Field...", when Efrim sings of the brightest night he ever saw on "Babylon Was Built On Fire". But A Silver Mount Zion never truly commits to that until the album finale, "Goodbye Desolate Railyard", which features Menuck mourning memories lost by war or whatever the listener decides caused the disappearance. The strings bounce warmly on major for several minutes, lulling the listener into a false sense of finale, when Menuck, the Rusted Satellites, and an acoustic guitar return to gorgeously chant in unison "Everybody gets a little lost sometimes"
until the studio fades them out. The feeling after those final words ring away, the silence resonating after nearly an hour of emotional, expressive music, makes This Is Our Punk Rock
worthwhile. A Silver Mount Zion created their signature sound with this record. Let the imitators try to rip off this.