April 23, 2007

That Was The Show That Was: A Silver Mount Zion | Colmar, France

A Silver Mount Zion as shot by Flickr user Mr Pilou Face May 23, 2006
[PHOTO CREDIT | Indie rock vagabond Lars Ro, one of our oldest friends, returns to the electronic pages of :: clicky clicky :: with this performance review of Canadian post-rockers A Silver Mount Zion. Mr. Ro is a veteran of numerous indie acts, the longest-running being Sfu-ma-to, and he recently opened a show for SMZ in Lausanne; Ro also operates Purr Mama Resistor Records. Ro previously reviewed a live performance of David Yow's new endeavour Qui here, months before most publications knew Qui from a Cuisinart. -- Ed.]

Last night, as the septet A Silver Mount Zion took the stage of Le Grillen in the French city of Colmar, Jessica Moss and Sophie Trudeau assumed positions flanking the stage like violin-bearing angels. And then new tune "13 Blues for 13 Moons" commenced apocalyptically, before shifting into a serious Hendrix-esque riff and building into pure, bucking rock. Drummer Eric [sorry, Eric, we don't know your surname -- Ed.] appeared possessed, despite being a relatively new addition to the band. "Mountains Made of Steam" [the inspiration for the so-named fan site] was super-hushed, illuminating how the crowd tonight seemed to be tamer than most on this tour so far. Sweeping, cresting waves of overlapping violins, cello and contrabass gave way to the klezmer-like "Lai lai lai la lai." As was band progenitor Godspeed You! Black Emporer before it, A Silver Mount Zion is a master of shifting dynamics. Ms. Moss even contributed some Sigur Ròs-esque screams into her violin.

The loose and dissonant passages of new composition "Engine Broke" were perfectly suited to Eric's percussive blasts: epic soundscapes which would do Wilhelm Wagner proud. Lyrics like "building trainwrecks in the setting sun" invoke fitting images for our age. "Take These Hands & Throw Them In The River," the only oldie-but-goodie of the set, kicked off with strings that sounded like air-raid sirens. I could literally feel my guts turn, and had a sense of what a young miss in Brussels meant when she characterized SMZ's music "distressing." Onwards to chugging rock, into a feedback fest and finally an avant-garde symphony. The new hit "1 Million Died To Make This Sound" started off in a similarly unsettling manner, navigating experimental waters and then entering medieval plainsong territory. (I found myself wondering if one million notes were being played in the song, being quite exhausted after a near-sleepless night...)

Six songs might sound like a short set, but considering the lengths of SMZ's opuses, think again. The encore consisted of "Blind Blind Blind" [YouTube], with the stated preference "we want punks in the palace" falling on eager, anyone-but-Sarkozy ears (it was election day in France this day). It was a powerhouse of a song, sliding down chutes and up sonic ladders again. I was wondering why I wasn't crying to the refrain of "some hearts are true" as I usually do, and then they suddenly began streaming down. The audience's final applause was quite impressive, so maybe Colmarians aren't as tame as I'd first feared. -- Lars Ro.

You can download A Silver Mount Zion's April 17 performance, the fourth show of its current strand of tour dates, in lossless audio files at Archive.org here. The remaining tour dates are listed below the requisite links. After these dates the band will turn its attention to completing a live record tentatively titled F*ck You Drakulas, which it hopes to finish by mid-summer according to the band's web site. A Silver Mount Zion plans to tour the U.S. and Canada from late July until early September.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

04/24 -- Nancy, FR -- L'Autre Canal
04/26 -- Brighton, UK -- Komedia
04/27 -- Colchester, UK -- Arts Centre
04/29 -- Somerset, UK -- ATP Festival
04/30 -- London, UK -- Scala
05/02 -- Sheffield, UK -- Corporation
05/03 -- Oxford, UK -- Zodiac
05/05 -- Hasselt, BE -- Zall Belgie


DJ durutti said...

great review Lars. Seeing A Silver Mt. Zion is quite an experience. Saw them in Boston last summer (Jay: were you at that show?) I wrote a review of that gig over @ bostonist, btw. Glad to see they'll be back this summer.

jbreitling said...

Sounds like I need to see them myself.