Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Silver Mt. Zion’ Category

landSOUNDTRACK: SONG OF THE SILENT LAND [CST2 COMP] (2004).

silentlandThis is a great compilation of Constellation artists from 2004 and earlier.  What makes it so good is that 13 of the 14 songs are released here for the first time.  So it works not only as a sampler of the labels artists, it also works as a great rarities collection.

ELIZABETH ANKA VAJAGIC-“The Sky Lay Still” [stripped down version of album song].  This song starts with slow echoing guitars and Elizabeth’s voice which sounds a bit like Carla Bozulich (but cleaner).  Two minutes in, it shifts tones to an awesomely catchy section with great vocals.

DO MAKE SAY THINK-“Winter Hymn Winter Hymn Winter Hymn”   This is the entire Winter Hymn … album remixed into a 5 minute track.  I’ve often complained that I dislike remixes but this one is great.  It includes some big guitar chords, some quiet drums, some notes and maybe gives you a feel of the album, but maybe not.  The end of the track plays some very fast heavy chords and then gets sped up out of existence.

EXHAUST-“Wool Fever Dub” [from their self-released cassette]  This song has a big thumping beat and some cool echoed harmonics on the guitar. This basic song structure runs through a 3 minute instrumental with a different “chorus” and some intense drumming at the end.

HANGEDUP-“(Re)View From The Ground (remix)”  This is a very catchy, fun remix.  Noisy clattering drums and all kinds of feedback squalls keep this propulsive track moving—this is my kind of dance remix.

BLACK OX ORKESTAR-“Toyte Goyes In Shineln”  This track comes from their album Ver Tanzt? And is one of my favorite of their songs from this disc.  An Acoustic guitar and bass play a simple melody over what I assume is quiet Hebrew singing.

SACKVILLE-“This Machine”  This is an unreleased track from the band.  It is a simple downbeat folk song with a really catchy chorus.  I like Sackville a lot but haven’t mentioned their full length yet–coming soon.

SILVER MT. ZION-“Iron Bridge To Thunder Bay” This is an unreleased track from the Rusted Satellites session, it begins with squealing feedback that slowly changes pitch until the thudding drums and bass come in.  They play a rumbling rhythm underneath the otherwise noisy sounds.  After 6 minutes, the song ends in squalls of feedback until the last minute just echoes until the end.

SOFA-“String Of Lights” [from the self released cassette].  I really like Sofa and wish they’d released more music.  This song actually sounds a bit like the Black Ox Orkestar song above-a- slow broody acoustic piece, but I love the way the chorus brightens the song.

POLMO POLPO-“Dreaming (…Again)”  This track is described as “constructed of materials from the Like Hearts Swelling sessions”  It’s a pretty, upbeat song with some slide guitars and a groovy rhythm.

RE: “Slippage” [unreleased track from the Mnant sessions]  This song has clanging percussion and oscillating keyboards which make this soundscape interesting and compelling.

FLY PAN AM-“Tres Tres ‘Avant'” is an improvisation with Tim Hecker and Christof Migone.  There’s a funky bass and drums with some groovy keyboards.

1-SPEED BIKE-“Fair Warning” [ remix of “New Blue Monday” from their album].  The track starts with a person saying “Okay we’ll call this one Fair Warning.”  You can hear the music (primarily the guitar echoed) and the riff from New Order’s “Blue Monday” and then he starts reciting passages in a great Canadian accent: “heroin crop in Afghanistan is 3 times higher this year than last year because the Taliban got taken out and replaced with the Americans.”  “We don’t want funerals because people like to party too much, Capice?”  The second half of the song is a lot of swirling statics and noise with repeated notes.

FRANKIE SPARO-“See My Film” [working mix of an unreleased song].  This song has a sprinkling of guitar notes and Sparo’s mellow but rough voice singing a cool melody.  The addition of a violin melody really elevates the song.  The end is even better as he adds another vocal line and some da das making it even catchier.

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR-“Outro” This is a live performance of a concert finale recorded in France on 14 May 2003.  This slow song opens with glockenspiel and strings–a slow, pretty melody that evolves over 7 minutes to add a bigger string section.  The last 2 minutes include a very nice violin solo that plays over the top of the rest of the band.  GYBE has never officially released a live album, so this is a good opportunity to hear what they can do live.

[READ: August 20, 2016] Land

This is a book about Anthony Gormley’s five statues on Landmark Trust Property.

The five statues in this book are life-sized cast iron sculptures installed in five Landmark Trust sites across the British Isles from May 2015 to May 2016.  Saddell Bay, Mull of Kintyre; South West Point, Lundy; Clavell Tower, Kimmeridge Bay; Martello Tower, Aldeburgh, and Lengthsman’s Cottage, Lowsonford.

The sculptures are by Antony Gormley, the photos of the sculptures are by Clare Richardson and the text is by Jeanette Winterson.  Winterson is the only person I’d heard of in this book but as soon as I flipped through the pages, I was instantly struck by the sculptures.

Gormley works with the human form in very heavy sculptural designs.  There’s another book about his work called Human that shows even more of his sculptures. (more…)

Read Full Post »

henrySOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA-Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything [CST099] (2014).

99Aside from the dance remix single of “Hang on to Each Other,” this is the latest Silver Mt. Zion record to be released.  For those keeping score, GYBE has released an album more recently than SMtZ.  This album is full of punk piss and vinegar (as if the title didn’t give it away).  It’s mostly represented by a heavily fuzzed out guitar that runs underneath nearly all of the songs.

The album begins with a child saying, “We live on the island of Montreal … and we make a lot of noise … because we love each other.”

This first song is called “Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal)” and the music starts with scratching noisy guitars and everyone else playing a simple ascending and descending riff.  The vocals kick in right away and it feels like the whole group is singing along too–everyone is involved in this noisy song.  It works great.  Even when the song shifts to a more singable part it retains the intensity of the pacing.  Around 4 minutes we get a return to the chanted vocals that lead into a kind of hurricane of a solo section.  And when they come out of that the chorus sings the chanted title.  The biggest change comes at 6 and a half minutes when the whole song shifts and a slower, heavier and deeper guitar chord (unlike any they have played before–it feels unearthly) drives the remainder of the song.  As I’ve noted in other songs, I love when the choir sings by itself (the female singers in this case singing “pull me under”), and they all sound much more “professional” than the kind of loose choir they were a few albums ago.  This choir sings to the end of the song as the instruments all drop off leaving only voices.  It’s pretty fantastic.

“Austerity Blues” is 14 minutes long and opens with a flat sounding scratched acoustic guitar and sing along vocals.  While the scratching  guitar is going on a cool bass line begins.  Things quiet down which leads to a noisy one-note distorted guitar that adds a layer of noise to the melody line.  The song shifts to a louder section with scratchy violins and big pounding drums (David Payant has really added a lot to these songs with his powerful drumming).  Around 6 minutes in, a distorted echoing guitar plays a kind of Middle Eastern-sounding guitar solo.  When the solo settles down a new faster section begins–lots of drums and group singing.  By ten minutes, the song feels like it’s fading out as the music gets quieter.  But a new set of vocals resume more quietly this time, and they sing their melodies quietly until the end.

“Take Away These Early Grave Blues” opens with a girl with a very thick British accent wondering why “people think like that” as a noisy violin kicks in with a see-saw riff and shouted vocals.  This song sounds like a pretty standard SMtZ song with the big exception being the really noisy drums that dominate the track (Payant again).  At around 2 minutes, the music drops away leaving just a buzzy bass introducing a noisy drum and guitar solo.  When the vocals resume the music becomes a fast pounding drum fill and more distorted violins and guitars.  The song is intense and while only about 7 minutes long, it really packs a lot in.  It ends with a fast riff (that’s almost an Irish jig) followed by crashing drums and chanting lyrics: “Love each other that’s all.”

“Little Ones Run” is only two and half minutes long.  That’s unusual in itself for the band.  But even more unusual is that the song is like a lullaby.  It’s a quiet piano melody and lyrics sung by the female members of the band.  It hearkens back to their first albums which were all piano, but this is a much updated version of that early sound.

“What We Loved Was Not Enough” opens with quiet violins and deep bass notes.  The relative quiet is shattered by Efrim singing (this is the first instance on this album where his polarizing voice stands out–on the rest of the album it’s pretty well mixed in with everything else.  But I think he’s won us over by this time and we can accept it, especially since the musical melody is so pretty.  There’s also a lovely violin solo that runs through the middle of the song.  In fact, the whole song would be really quite pretty except for the distortion that permeates it–a noisy guitar underpins the whole thing.  But at 6 minutes, everything drops out except for the pretty violin and the vocals,  “And the day has come when we no longer feel.”  That refrain is picked up by the beautiful choir voices (they really sound great).  As they repeat this section, Efrim sings a harsh lead vocal (he sounds a bit like Larry Kirwan from Black 47).  There’s an instrumental section that scorches with noisy guitars for about a minute and then at 9 minutes the song returns to that beautiful chorus (with male voices added) and that delicate violin.  It goes on like this until the end.  It’s really lovely.

The final song “Rains Thru the Roof at Thee Grande Ballroom (For Capital Steez)” is also rather different for the band.  It is “introduced” by an interview (in English and translated into French) from an unnamed musician who is talking about how being in a band is more than a part time gig … it’s what you devote your life to.  When the music comes in it’s floor toms and an unsettling distorted and scratchy strings or keyboards or sampled voices and keyboard which slowly growing louder.  There’s stabs of piano and vocals which are far back in the mix.  The melody is nice but mournful and it continues for all of the four minutes.  [Capital Steez was a rapper from Brooklyn who committed suicide in 2012.  I honestly can’t tell what this song has to do with him].

I’m not sure which band we can expect to hear from next, but both GYBE and SMtZ have released really strong records in the last few years.

For this album, the lineup stays the same as on the previous album (and the band name has remained the same, too).

Thierry Amar: Upright bass, electric bass, plucked piano, vocals
Efrim Menuck: Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mellotron, vocals
Jessica Moss: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
Sophie Trudeau: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
and David Payant has taken over for Eric Craven on drums, organ, piano and vocals

[READ: March 15, 2016] “Confessions of a Humorist”

I only found out about this story from reading The Fate of the Artist.  I have always vaguely liked O. Henry, but can’t say that I’ve read much by him.  I found this story to be simple and fairly obvious, although perhaps it was obvious because he introduced this style of storytelling to the world one hundred years ago.

The narrator is a bookkeeper in a hardware firm.  We learn a bit more about him and his family.  This line delighted me for some reason, “Naturally, we lived in a vine-covered cottage.”

On the occasion of the senior partner’s 50th birthday, he was selected to give a speech.  And it was a hit.  People laughed and suddenly his reputation as humorist was established. (more…)

Read Full Post »

fateart SOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA-Kollaps Tradixionales [CST063] (2010).

kollaspThis album was released as a CD and as double 10″ vinyl.  Each “side” is about 15 minutes long.  And, interestingly, each side has a kind of theme, I guess.  It also includes the shortest song the band has recorded.

“There Is a Light” is one of my favorite songs they’ve done.  The guitar and strings play off each other perfectly and the song ebbs and flows very nicely.  Efrim sounds pretty drunk in his vocals, which gives the whole thing a shambolic quality that contrasts nicely with the elegance of the music.  Of all of their songs, I think this one really captures the intensity that these band can generate with the swelling strings and pounding drums.  At 6 minutes, the whole thing slows to a halt but is then resumed with a new, even more interesting section.  Over reverbed guitars, a series of horns and backing vocals singing “la las” flesh out the lead vocals.  I really enjoy the way the strings swirl around the vocals only pausing to let the words “One Step Two step” come out in staccato vocals.  But the main strings riff that follows these verses is so pretty, I could listen too just that.  This all ends around 9 minutes, when the final part begins with slow guitar and horns.  The vocals come in singing the title “there is a light.”  It starts quiet but soon enough the full choir of voices joins in as the music swells.  After a few round of verses, the song ends with the female choir singing, “Tell me there is a light.”

The second “side” is the “metal bird” side.  It stars with “I Built Myself a Metal Bird” which opens with rocking guitar chords and fast drums–the most overtly rock song they’ve done so far.  The vocals are screamed and staccato.  Things never really let up for the whole six minutes–there’s a concurrent violin solo while the lyrics are sung.  The second half of the song changes things a bit–with more dramatic strings playing.  In the last thirty seconds the tone changes a bit and things do mellow out for the conclusion.  That leads into the second bird song

“I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds” is quite different from the first.  It opens with slow electric guitars and quiet strings.  There’s noisy guitars and other strange atmospheric sounds for the first three and a half minutes when it finally settles into an uptempo string song with more great violin riffs.  At fiver minutes (of 6) the bowed bass takes over the main line and the accompanying strings help to move things along.  There’s only about 30 seconds left when the vocals come in and they are nearly drowned out by the music.

The third side is the “Kollpas” side with three songs.

For “Kollapz Tradixional (Thee Olde Dirty Flag)” the piano comes back with quiet chords and gentle strings accompanying quiet vocals. .  The song stays quiet as different instruments come to the fore.  At around 5 minutes (of 6 in total) a guitar solo winds its way to the end of the song.

After this there is a 1 and half-minute song “Collapse Traditional (For Darling).”  It’s a gentle ballad played on strings with layered vocals.

“Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos)” opens with pizzicato strings and a fuzzy meandering guitar.  About 2 minutes in, the loud chords strike and the drums kick in with a fairly complex rhythm.  About half way in, one guitars start playing in each speaker and the vocals begin.  Two voices begin singing against each other keeping an interesting rhythm with their staccato phrasing and the thumping drums,.  The last two minutes feature a guitar solo and vocals following a similar pattern as the guitar.

The final side has one 14 minute song “‘Piphany Rambler.”  The song begins with distant guitars and plucked strings.  The vocals are quiet, nearly whispered.  A refrain of “don’t sleep” surfaces from the quiet.  At around 5 minutes the guitars and strings grow louder and the song properly starts.  But even this section is fairly slow, as if preparing to build up to something else.   It’s the strings and their insistent three note melody that really unites the song.  About midway through things slow down even further (with some cool retro organs sounds amidst the strings).  And the song turns into a very catchy string filled section with the vocals working very nicely with the melody.  This section grows louder and more raucous as it heads to the conclusion.

SMtZ has made many diverse styles of albums over the years, and this combination of rocking songs and delicate strings is probably my favorite.  For this one, the lineup has shrunk to a five piece of

Thierry Amar: Upright bass, electric bass, plucked piano, vocals
Efrim Menuck: Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mellotron, vocals
Jessica Moss: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
Sophie Trudeau: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
and David Payant has taken over for Eric Craven on drums, organ, piano and vocals

[READ: March 15, 2016] The Fate of the Artist

I didn’t love Eddie Campbell’s Black Diamond Detective Agency, and that was manly been because of the art.  That didn’t really bode well for this story.

But Campbell does an incredible thing with this book.  He mixes text and many different kinds of pictures–including comic strips and photographs, to create a fascinating story of his own disappearance.

The story begins “One day the artist wakes up with the disquieting feeling that it has all gone wrong….  It is difficult to obtain sympathy for this condition.”

And then the Artist disappears and all that is left is a picture.  “Most people would leave a note.” “Yes, well he left a picture.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

silence THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND-13 Blues for Thirteen Moons [CST051] (2008).

330px-13_Blues_for_Thirteen_MoonsThis album opens with 12 tracks of a kind of feedbacking noise.  The total time for this is about a minute before track 13 begins.  And this album feels very different from the more acoustic Horses.  Whereas Horses felt acoustic and organic, this album is noisy and raucous and very electric.  After the 12 brief tracks there are four lengthy ones that comprise the album.

“1,000,000 Died to Make This Sound” starts with scratched notes and pizzicato strings.  The choir quietly begins singing the title “one million died to make this sound.”  Their voices grow louder and then at about 3 minutes in there’s a great bowed riff that introduces the more rocking section–a guitar “solo” and drums as that bass riff continues.  About mid way through the song it takes on a real rocking feel–the guitars rock out and the steady beat keeps up.  The song feels sloppy and intense–like they couldn’t wait to get this out.  I would describe the song as fun (except that it’s pretty bleak).  Efrim’s voice sounds a bit like Johnny Rotten or some other British punk) on this song and the punk style suits it well.  I really love the way the violin-swells make the riffs even bigger until about 9 minutes when the song shifts dramatically again and it feels like a Crazy Horse jam–big, sloppy, noisy guitars.  The song reaches a sort of natural stopping point as the music all fades away and the voices resume–I love the choir of voices at the end of the song (although perhaps Efrim’s voice could be a tad quieter?  Efrim’s voice seems to be a polarizing thing for fans of this band.  I’m even polarized about it on different songs–sometimes I think it’s too much, but other times I think it works well.

“13 Blues for Thirteen Moons” is 16 minutes long.  It begins with thumping drums and bass before Efrim’s voice comes chanting in.  The song is noisy and chaotic–lots of drums and cymbals and then the backing vocals start a call and response with the lead vocals.  The song continues in the same vein–with a refrain of “I Just Want Some Action” but then around 5 minutes a big distorted guitar plays a kind of concluding riff before a quieter guitar begins a new section with some quiet picking.  And its in this section that the album title is sung.  This quiet guitar section goes on for quite a while with Efrim shouting various parts–and then second voice joins him.  It’s unusual that the band will play the same riff through so much of a song, but it’s a good riff.  The whole band picks up the riff as it grows louder and more rocking.  The final two minutes are filled with feedback and quiet guitars with Efrim shouting syllable after syllable until it feedbacks to an end.  It’s a pretty intense song.

“Black Waters Blowed/Engine Broke Blues” opens in a much quieter way with slow revered guitars.  The vocals are also slow and accompanied by a lone cello.  But after a minute and a half chaos erupts in the song–feedback squalls and wild guitars accompanied by chaotic drumming make the song sound like it is tripping over itself , but it soon resolves to a quiet part like the intro–this time with two singers.  The song builds again, with the chaotic drums fighting for dominance over the string section.  But they both cede again to the quieter vocals once more.  The band then acts in concert building the song and allowing the vocals to continue.  And after a musical interlude, the vocals begin again over a quiet organ.  And this next section builds as strings accompany the louder vocals and the drum gets a pounding martial beat.  The final section, which appears to be the “Engine Broke Blues” is a repeated refrain of “Building Trainwrecks in the Setting Sun.”

The final song “BlindBlindBlind” also opens quietly, with a simple guitar motif.  As the vocals continue, a ringing guitar and a feedbacking guitar join the song (each in a different ear).  And then a violin adds to the melody.  About 4 minutes in, the melody shifts to an organ heavy section with the lead vocal followed by backing vocals.  A pizzicato section begins next.  What’s interesting is that the vocal melody hasn’t really changed this whole time (in this song Efrim again sounds a bit like a British punk rocker).  At around 7 minutes, the song turns towards the end, with strings and drums.  This end bit is my favorite part on the record, not only for the melody, but for the excellent backing chanting.  The backing vocal melody is very cool in itself–I love when they add the high notes–repeating the refrain “Some hearts are true” over and over.  A guitar solo interrupts the proceedings for a bit and then they resume singing all the way to the end.  It’s a very cathartic conclusion.

For this album, the lineup stayed the same although Eric Craven replaced Scott Levine Gilmore on drums.

Back in 2009, I wrote a post about this album.  It’s pretty brief and mostly talks about the singing.

[READ: March 1, 2016] The Silence of Our Friends

This was the final First Second book that I had in a huge stack that I took out from the library.  I had been putting this book off because I was nervous about reading it.  Nothing pretty is going to happen in a Civil Rights book and I had to prepare myself for it.  Obviously, the era is staggeringly important–even more so today with the kind of political rhetoric being shouted around.  That’s not why i didn’t want to read it.  I was afraid about how ugly this book might get.

But in fact, this book doesn’t go in that direction at all.  It is a factual story and while it looks at racism, it also shines a light of hope on race relations. It’s another excellent graphic novel from First Second [#10yearsof01].

What I did not know is that this story is based on actual events–the author’s father was a journalist in Texas during a serious Civil Rights confrontation.  And his father was able to help offset a travesty of justice.  He risked his career and even his own safety to do the right thing.

Set in Houston in 1968, we see some kids playing army in the yard.  This is also during Vietnam, so that’s probably not a very uncommon sight.  When the kids go inside, their mom is watching the Saigon execution on TV.  She is horrified and begins crying. The talk that night is of the atrocities of war. (more…)

Read Full Post »

alieeenSOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA-Hang On to Each Other EP [CST105] (2014).

Hang_on_to_each_otherI try to go in sequence with a band’s records.  But this release is, inexplicably, a dance remix Ep of a song from the album Horses in the Sky.  The original is basically an a capella song with a harmonium.  Efrim sings the main melody and the chorus sings the repeated refrains.

It’s pretty cool and the spareness of it really resonates.  About four minutes (of 6 and a half), the refrain switches to “any fucking thing you love.”  Then about 5 minutes in he switches to “birds toss precious flowers from the murky skies above” while the chorus starts singing, “Any fucking thing you love.”

This EP features vocals by Ariel Engle of AroarA, and virtually nothing of the original song except the words.

The first side “Any Fucking Thing You Love” is 11 minutes long and is as promised, a dance remix.  And it is a serious, get your butt on the dance floor remix.  No irony, no winking, just butt shaking.

It opens with roars and a boat (ocean liner) whistle and then some dance drums.   Then there’s what sounds like lions roars, a middle-eastern-sounding instrument and screams.  Then the female vocals come in singing “Hang On To Each Other.”   The majority of the song is an instrumental dance section with washes of keyboards and drums.  There’s roaring noises as the beat keeps up the pace.  About 9 minutes in she starts chanting “Any fucking thing you love” and the song continues to dance on until the feedback sounds at the end.

Side two is “Birds Toss Precious Flowers” which opens with that same boat whistle.   Some skittery keyboards come in and out and then a big bass drum starts keeping the beat.  It doesn’t start getting dancey until after about 90 seconds.  That’s when the vocals come in—echoey and very cool.  About four minutes in the music cuts away and it’s just the thudding bass drum and vocals, then the song picks up again  At around 7 minutes the “birds fly” part kicks in.  The song turns really dancey with a vocal solo   The last two minutes are more or less the keyboard winding going through a very slow reverb pedal.

Of the two, I like the second one better as there’s more interesting things going on, but I have to assume that the first is a better club song.

[READ: February 15, 2016] A.L.I.E.E.E.N.

Lewis Trondheim found this book while on vacation.  It is the first collection of extraterrestrial comic strips every discovered.  And Trondheim convinced First Second to publish it [#10yearsof01].

A.L.I.E.E.E.N. stands for Archives of Lost Issues and Earthly Editions of Extraterrestrial Novelties.  (The book was originally published in France with the title A.L.I.E.E.N.)

The book is adorable, with cute and cuddly aliens creatures on a fascinating world.  There’s a blue four-legged guy and a yellow two-legged guy with a long tail and they are frolicking amidst butterfly-looking creatures.  The aliens only speak in alien tongue (I wonder if the characters can be translated or if it is just gibberish).  Then on page two, the blue guy runs into a tree and has both his eyes poked out in pools of blood.

WHAT?! (more…)

Read Full Post »

ninthSOUNDTRACK: Thee Silver Mountain Reveries-The “Pretty Little Lightning Paw” E.P. [CST030] (2004).

lightpawAfter three albums, it was time to make an EP under yet another variant of the band’s name.  This is a fun release (which is interesting to say about a band who is typically quite serious).  What made this “fun” is that many of the band members switched instruments for this recording. Violinist Sophie Trudeau plays bass guitar.  Guitarist Ian Ilavsky, usually one of the band’s guitarists, plays drums.

Also when they finished recording, was complete, the EP was played on a boombox and re-recorded from that.  I can’t tell that it was recorded in this way, so who knows if that made any difference.

There are four songs, “More Action! Less Tears!” is the first.  It begins with Aimee shouting “Hello!  Hello!” and then messing up and laughing.  So she begins again, “The name of this song is More Action.  The name of this song is Less Tears.”  It sounds unlike anything that SMtZ have done so far.  The guitar that opens it is distorted and plays a fairly conventional riff while the violins play a suitable melody over the top.  The strings build and the songs oars.

“Microphones in the Trees” opens with a guitar melody that’s quickly joined by the same melody on upright bass.  Efrim begins singing (his voice is distorted and echoed and sounds almost more like an instrument than a voice, although you can hear the lyrics: “microphones in the trees, cameras in the sky.”  The choir starts singing along with him until about three minutes when a wash of noise over takes the song. This lasts for a few minutes and then fades, allowing the words to continue.  About half way into the song a rather shambolic chorus sings “we are the flood.”  The last two minutes or so are simply feedbacky noises wafting around.

“Pretty Little Lightning Paw”is the ten-minute title track.  It opens with bass notes and chimed notes.  The strings follow Efrim’s vocal lines (which sound ragged and quiet).  And then after a minute or so new strings come in, slightly unsettling sounding.  About three minutes in the 4 voice choir begins singing an alternate melody above Efrim’s repeated mantra.  The song continues in this vein for pretty much the rest of the song, only modifying at the end where the sounds and feedback resemble birdsong.

“There’s a River in the Valley Made of Melting Snow” is 5 minutes long and is basically a solo song from Efrim.  He plays guitar, sings and plays “toybox.”  The melody is fairly simple and his voice sounds pretty good–not too shrill.  It may be the most conventional song that SMtZ has recorded.

While this EP doesn’t deviate drastically from the band’s normal sound, it is fun to see them mix things up a bit.   For this recording, the band was

  • Thierry Amar – violin, bass guitar, vocals, pianohandle
  • Ian Ilavsky – drums
  • Efrim Menuck – guitar, piano, organ, vocals, feedback, toybox
  • Jessica Moss – violin, vocals
  • Sophie Trudeau – bass guitar
  • [Beckie Foon is absent]

[READ: May 5, 2016] The Ninth Circle

Brendan and I went to college together.  In fact, I knew Brendan from his submissions to both the newspaper and the literary magazine.  He was a major talent back then (I still remember details from the story he submitted twenty some years ago) and continues to be one now.  He works in comics and has written for Flash Gordon, his own book Scatterbrain and something that I can’t wait to find a copy of: Charlie Sheen: Vatican Assassin Warlock.  Check out his output on Goodreads.

This is his first published novel, I believe. And I was hooked from the first chapter.

The story is about 16-year-old Dan.  His family is a disaster–his brother is obsessively mean to him, his father is an alcoholic, his mother is probably sleeping with someone else, and neither parent gives him the time of day.  For his 16th birthday they take him to the circus, even though he never said he wanted to go to the circus.  His brother promises to get revenge for having to go to this lame spectacle.

Dan’s not even sure that he’s going to like it, but he winds up being mesmerized from the moment he walks in.  The trickster tricks him, the freaks entice him (he finds the bearded lady especially enchanting) and the whole show is truly amazing.  Later that night, while lying in bed thinking about his crappy life, Dan decides to take action. (more…)

Read Full Post »

breachSOUNDTRACK: THE SILVER MT. ZION ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND (WITH CHOIR)-“This Is Our Punk-Rock,” Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing, [CST027] (2003).

MtzionthisisourThis album is a pretty massive change for A Silver Mt Zion.  It both brings this band closer to their alter ego GYBE but also pushes them further away at the same time.  How?  Well, musically, this album sounds a lot more like GYBE–epic songs all over ten minutes with lots of strings and soaring moments.  But the big difference now is that every song has vocals (hence the new title of the band).  The line up has stayed the same although they have many guests for the choir.  The choir is referred to on the album as Thee Rusted Satellite Choir.

“Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom” opens the disc with someone counting of “1234… 12345678.”   And then a simple guitar and bass melody starts up.  The song sounds fairly conventional, in fact.  And then the choir kicks in.  Many many voices singing, “Ahhhh.”  And then a solo voice continues the “Ahhhs” in another pitch while the choir continues.   I love this whole introduction–the various keys the voices are in, how the bass voices start singing “fa fa fa la la so” and on and on in varying formats.  The choir (a bunch of friends and bandmates) sounds great–not perfect but perfect for this song.  This lasts for about 7 minutes before the choir fades and the rest of the song begins with a swelling of droning music.  Strings come in and the song stays quiet for a couple of minutes before the guitar riff from the beginning returns this time with string accompaniment instead of voices.   Around 12 minutes the strings change to something else–more grandiose music which sounds amazing.  About a minute later the drums begin and the song takes on a whole new style.  This more rocking sound continues until the end of the song.  It’s awesome.

“Babylon Was Built on Fire/StarsNoStars” opens with staccato echoed guitars (it also feels a bit like Pink Floyd).  There’s ambient washes of guitars that float around, but the whole things sounds very trippy (not a sound I associate with this band).  About six minutes in, Efrim begins singing.  This is the first time he’s sung quite so loudly and clearly.  His voice is anguished and a bit harsh, but it works pretty well with the violins and the cool bassline that walks throughout the song.  With about 4 minutes left, the music changes direction.  The guitar starts playing a single note, growing louder and louder as the strings surround the guitar and voice: “Citizens in their homes and missiles in their holes.”  Efrim (I assume) sings a round with himself as more and more lines of text fill the song.  Although his voice doesn’t sound radically different in each one, he does adjust volume and tone enough to make it sound pretty interesting.

“American Motor over Smoldered Field” is the shortest song on the disc at 12 minutes.  It begins with a simple acoustic guitar melody (quite pretty) and Efrim singing over it (I appreciate the different vocal styles in this song).  It’s really quite a compelling song as that guitar continues and the strings come in behind it.  Around four minutes in, the drums crash and the song takes off.  The strings change and the song becomes very intense–faster and louder.  This lasts about three minutes before a staccato guitar picks up and choral voices are heard way in the background.  The voices (all Efrim, I believe) build and build as the guitar maintains.  Around nine minutes the strings and guitars change and the song flows as a new vocal line joins in “this fence around your garden won’t keep the ice from falling.”

The final song, the 14 minute “Goodbye Desolate Railyard” also opens with acoustic guitar and Efrim’s vocals. The song (an elegy for a dying city) remain simple–acoustic guitar, simple violin and bass notes.   The song is repetitive, lulling the listener into as sense of contentment.  Although at around 5 minutes, the violins swell and become a little unpleasant–kind of harsh and a little staticky.  This continues for some 5 minutes until it is replaced by the rather close up sound of a freight train going slowly down a track.  After two minutes of this, the acoustic guitar returns with Efrim singing (in a very Neil Young kind of voice) “every body gets a little lost sometimes.”  The full choir joins in to sing these final words for a several rounds before fading out.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Breach Point

Steve and I are pals of Facebook.  If I may wax jealous for a minute, Steve has done everything that I’d ever wanted to do when I was younger–he’s been in a band (cuppa joe–they released several really good albums); he’s a graphic designer, something I always imagined being when I grew up; and now he has written a novel.  So, yes, basically I hate Steve.  Except that, of course, I don’t hate Steve.

I hate him even less because this book is not only really good, but it has brought back a part of my childhood that I had forgotten about.

When I (and anyone else who grew up in the New Jersey area in the 70s) was a kid, there were always commercials for Brigantine Castle in Brigantine NJ.  The commercials scared the hell out of me and I was always terrified to go to this place.  I knew it was down the shore but never exactly where.  And there were times when we drove to the shore and I was convinced we were going to the castle instead (totally false, Brigantine was way further north than any beach we would have gone to).  And then Brigantine Castle burned down.  Interestingly, after watching these commercials again coupled with The Haunted Mansion (another commercial played quite often), I learned that the Haunted Mansion was in Long Branch.  I never went to that Haunted House either, although I have since been to the convention center that now stands where the Haunted Mansion once stood before it burned down.

Yes, Both Brigantine castle and the Haunted Mansion burned down.  People know what happened in the Haunted Mansion fire, but the Brigantine Castle fire is shrouded in mystery.

This is all a long way to say that Steve has written a book that is based around this mystery.

Clara is a 16-year-old girl who travels to Breach Point for the summer.  She has gotten a job at an engineering firm and she is going to live with her Aunt Maureen.  When the book first opens, we see her on the bus, happy to get away from her mother and excited but nervous about gong to this place that she vaguely remembers. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »