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Born Into Trouble As the Sparks Fly Upward

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Album Review

For their sophomore release, A Silver Mt. Zion has expanded and changed their name, adding three more members to make the original trio of Efrim, Thierry, and Sophie from Godspeed You Black Emperor! a sextet at their core, plus the addition of a huge horn section (one heavily overdubbed contributor on trumpet and trombone) and various others lending vocal, atmospheric, percussive, and textural support. The three new members — Becky, Jessica, and Iain — fill out the band's sound with a denser string presence, which creates a backdrop for piano and eventually, electric guitars and drums. This band is like the mirror image of Godspeed You Black Emperor!; things evolve more slowly and melodically, and they open onto themselves. One example is the opener, "Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats of Fire Are Falling From the Sky!," where a lone violin and piano are eventually engaged by more strings and high, whining guitars that grow out into chord progressions that build on the ostinato of the theme but never, never explode. On "Could've Moved Mountains," the strings open up sad vistas in the heart of sound itself and are caressed by a guitar streaming, ever so slowly, along the underside of the mix before it reshapes the tune in its own image. This is music constructed with the same sense of dynamic and attention to detail, from echo and flange to masked vocals and the shimmer in cymbals, but it is so stunningly, heartbreakingly beautiful in its unfolding that for it to reach any other conclusion than to fall apart or disintegrate at the end of each piece would be to violate it somehow. As it is, the music on Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward is devastating in its beauty and ghostly in its articulation. We can only wonder what spirits came from the ether to inform this vision, and be glad they did.


Formed: 1999 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, A Silver Mt. Zion (just one of its many names) came to life in 1999 as a project for Godspeed You! Black Emperor member Efrim Menuck in his attempt to learn to score music. The original idea was pushed aside, and the project would go on to become a group setting, and was more in touch with the idea of the organic growth and exploration of music than the heavily composed and arranged theoretical work of Godspeed. Inspired to record an album of the music that had been...
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