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Story and Photos by Matt SchwenkeIf the name Silver Mount Zion (or Thee Silver Mount Zion with Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band if you're not into the whole brevity thing) doesn't give away the fact the Montreal-based orchestral post-rock group is far from a commercially-minded act, its founding member ties to the avant-garde/prog rock group Godspeed You! Black Emperor-- guitarist/vocalist Efrim Menuck, bassist/vocalist Thierry Amar and violinist/vocalist Sophie Trudeau-- should.
While epic soundscapers GY!BE have been on an indefinite hiatus since 2003, Silver Mount Zion is touring in support of 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, which is the group's fifth LP since 2000. Known for their understated statements through sparse lyrics or even simply a song title, many of their songs ring of a social commentary without saying much, in favor of crafting dramatically shifting soundscapes that seem to invite the listener to contemplate their own commentary. The new songs "1,000,000 Died to Make This Sound" and "BlindBlindBlind" and older material such as "Microphones in the Trees" were particularly poignant without being preachy. But despite the creative use of guitar, bass, drums, cello, violins and every member singing at one point, the subtle differences in the rise and fall dynamics of the set demanded intent listening-- so much so a beer can being dropped or someone sneezing was scoffed at by audience members in the quieter moments of the show-- and could easily be perceived as repetitive in form.
Though not as cinematic and otherworldly as fellow post-rockers Sigur Ros, Silver Mount Zion have an earthen quality that rewards its audience with a certain accessibility, as in "There Is a Light." With a lighting setup that only changed once the whole show and band arranged in semicircle on the stage, pseudo frontman Menuck was playfully engaged with the crowd between a few of the long, unraveling songs-- relating stories of Sonic Youth and Buckethead to their Milwaukee tour stops-- and helped draw in audience members not used to the unusual, contemplative format for a rock show.
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