THE SILVER MT ZION
MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA &
It's difficult to listen to this music with a complacent heart and a satisfied mind. The music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and its satellite bands such as A Silver Mt Zion, is in essence a music of discontent, doubt and dissent. It is the soundtrack of the anti-globalisation protestors at Cancun or anywhere else that the World Trade Organisation chooses to meet. It is in essence a music of conscience. And to be able to reach into the music, you have to be able to reach into yourself.
Take track two, Babylon Was Built On Fire/Starsnostars. It begins quietly with a slow whirling sound of helicopter blades produced by a synth. As the song goes on, it becomes clearer that Efrim is describing a US military attack on civilians. The music, once peaceful with delicate violin sounds, has accelerated into turmoil. A three-part chorus is begun by Efrim who sings, "citizens in their homes/missiles in holes." Another voice joins in: "The brightest lights I ever saw/the cries/the empty fucking light/no stars." It's a description of a missile attack, the light show as beautiful and bright as a surreal scene from Apocalypse Now!
The next track, American Motor Over Smoldered Field is even more graphic when Efrim sings, "bullets in the bellies of babies/sleeping in the strangest places." He concludes his observation on America with this line, "there's no defeat of your reckless destiny."
With only four tracks, each cut over 15 minutes long, this third album by The Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra, a six-piece band that, as Efrim once said, was dedicated to making "fucked-up chamber music," is distinguished by the fact that Efrim is singing more than ever before.
The first track is the infinitely beautiful Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom, which has the choir sounding like a Tibetan group of monks chanting in the opening minutes, before entering an ambient passage and finally blowing out with tumultuous strings and guitars.
Goodbye Desolate Railyard, which closes the album, is a reminder that the destruction of communities is a global phenomenon. It is even occurring in Efrim's backyard as developers have acquired the open area around the railyards where the band's neighbourhood is situated, to build condominiums. There is an interesting effect of mini-bomb explosions as the sound of rail cars roll on train tracks towards the end. Then the choir chimes in, "Everybody gets a little lost sometimes."
If that isn't
touching, I don't know what is. - Philip Cheah
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