Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
Infobox musical artist
Name = Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
Img_capt = Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band in April 2007
Img size =
Landscape = yes
Background = group_or_band
Alias = A Silver Mt. Zion Thee Silver Mountain Reveries The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Experimental rock Post-rock
Label = Constellation
Godspeed You! Black Emperor HangedupSackville Vic Chesnutt
URL = [http://www.tra-la-la-band.com www.tra-la-la-band.com]
Efrim Menuck Thierry Amar Beckie Foon Sophie Trudeau Ian Ilavsky Eric Craven Jessica Moss
Scott Levine Gilmore
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band (also known as A Silver Mt. Zion, Thee Silver Mountain Reveries and The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir) are a Canadian band that formed in 1999, originating from
Montreal, Quebec, Canada. They use a number of different variations of the name on different releases, but their name is most often simplified to Silver Mt Zion (as the band are hereafter referred to in this article). Since 2005, the band comprises seven members, of which three are also involved with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Since inception, the group has undergone numerous personnel changes.
The band have released five
studio albums and one EP, publishing them through the influential record label Constellation. Their debut album " He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms…" was released in 1999 and—with the exception of two tracks—is a purely instrumental record. As other records were created, their sound and membership progressively changed from a sequestered trio to a boisterous septet. By the release of " Horses in the Sky", the group became overwhelmingly vocal in its style, sometimes having all seven members sing on tracks. [http://www.cstrecords.com/cst033.html Constellation - Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band / Horses In The Sky : cst033 ] ]
Their most recent album, "
13 Blues for Thirteen Moons", was released in March 2008. It consists of four songs, all previously debuted at live performances. Several members of the band are also working on a live albumtentatively titled "Fuck You Drakulas". A mid-summer 2007 release was planned but did not materialize as the band are still working on it "when time permits."Cite web|url=http://cstrecords.com/bands_silvermtzion.html|title=Silver Mt. Zion biography|accessdate=2007-12-31|publisher=Constellation Records|author=Constellation Records|work=Bands index|format=html]
Silver Mt. Zion's music has been described as "post-rock", though the band members are hesitant to use the term. Singer and guitarist
Efrim Menuckidentifies with punk rock ethos and aesthetic. [http://www.peterguy.merseyblogs.co.uk/2008/02/a_silver_mt_zion_park_plaza_ho_1.html A Silver Mt Zion: Park Plaza Hotel, London, February 8 2008 (Peter Guy: Getintothis) ] ] In Issue 170 of Terrorizer, Menuck stated "The WikipediaMt. Zion page is so full of wrong stuff... I spend five minutes [correcting it] and then I'm like, y'know, my eyes hurt and I'd rather be reading a book".
Origins (1999 – 2000)
According to an interview with VPRO Radio in the
Netherlands, Silver Mt. Zion originally began as a project in which Efrim Menuck hoped to learn how to score music.Cite web|url=http://www.archive.org/details/asmz2001-01-26.flac|title=A Silver Mt. Zion at VPRO Studio (2001-01-26)|accessdate=2006-12-12|publisher=Internet Archive|year=2001|author=A Silver Mt. Zion|work=Live Music Archive] Already a guitarist in the Montreal-based musical collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor, he explained that he hoped to communicate better with his fellow musicians by getting familiar with music theory. This idea was soon abandoned as Menuck realized that he preferred not knowing precisely what he was doing when writing, opting to "fumble" instead.
The Silver Mt. Zion project, however, continued. Menuck's decision to record an album was partly inspired by the death of his dog Wanda, who died while he was on tour with Godspeed You! Black Emperor.Cite web|url=http://cstrecords.com/cst009.html|title="He Has Left Us Alone [...] " description|accessdate=2008-01-01|publisher=Constellation Records|author=Constellation Records|work=Bands index|format=html] It also served as an outlet, allowing him to experiment with ideas and sounds he did not feel that he could effectively create through Godspeed You! Black Emperor's collective, consensus format. Seeking help in the albums creation, Menuck enlisted
violinist Sophie Trudeauand bassist Thierry Amar, two musicians also involved with Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
The band made their live debut on
March 6, 1999at Musique fragile, a performance venue organized by the record label Constellation. They released their debut album, " He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms…", a little over a year later on March 27, 2000.
With the exception of the albums "
All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling" in 1994 and " F♯A♯∞" in 1997,fn|a Godspeed You! Black Emperor albums never featured vocals. Their substitute was instead provided through recorded audio samples produced by Sophie Trudeau. Similarly themed samples also appear on Silver Mt. Zion's debut album, wherein Menuck sings on two tracks - "Movie (Never Made)" and "Blown-out Joy from Heaven's Mercied Hole". Menuck confessed that he was uncomfortable with this at first, feeling "foolish" and uncomfortable with the role of the singer in music generally. At the time at least, he did not want to be the focus of the band's music but rather wished to use vocals as a stylistic tool.
Expanding membership (2000 – 2004)
Before the release of their second album, the band recruited three more musicians, expanding the group to a sextet. The new members were cellist Beckie Foon,
guitaristIan Ilavsky, and violinistJessica Moss. The name of the band was changed to reflect the larger membership; according to the liner notes of the second album " Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward.", they were officially called The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band.
The music was also growing and becoming more varied. While some tracks on "Born into Trouble…" reflect the building but repetitive and instrumental nature of their first album and even Godspeed You! Black Emperor, some tracks here are more song-like in structure and the vocals definitely have a stronger presence. On "Take These Hands and Throw Them in the River" for example, the vocal parts complete with a building wall of noise dynamic and while "Could've Moved Mountains" features double-tracked vocals that the listener has to strain to hear, the effect is to make the lyrics a focal point of the song.
In retrospect, this period seems to mark a transition from Silver Mt Zion as experiment and spin-off from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to a band with its own recognisable sound. Their first extensive tour took place in early
The next Silver Mt Zion album saw no change in the core line-up but the name of the band was slightly expanded again to accommodate the change in sound and the number of people involved in its creation. Now called The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band with Choir, "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing," was released in 2003, featured four tracks each lasting over ten minutes in length and had a strong vocal presence as well as bigger emphasis on drums in two of the tracks. In fact, the liner notes suggest that the 'rusted satellites' of the album title refer to the choir pulled together to sing on the album. Thee Rusted Satellite Choir features twenty-four names, though four of these might be members of Silver Mt Zion (only Efrim and Sophie's names are missing from the list).
After a break due to
Godspeed You! Black Emperoractivities, the band set out on its second tour in 2004. Starting with a brief Canadian tour at end of January, they then headed out for another long string of European dates from mid-February through the end of March. They headed across the Atlantic again in December for a tour of the UK, following their performance at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival.
The line-up was officially expanded again with the arrival of Scott Levine Gilmore, mandolinist, and guitarist. The choir dropped, the band now simply added an extra 'e' to the first word of their full title becoming Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band for the release of their fourth full-length record. "Horses in the Sky" (
2005) has six tracks, none of which are instrumental.
The band had their first performance in the United States (in
Brooklyn, New York City) on August 13of the same year; the culmination of a short tour of eastern Canada. Plans for a longer tour were cut short after Sophie Trudeau, one of two violinists for the band, broke her collarbone. In that time, Gilmore left the band and was replaced by former Hangedup drummer Eric Craven.
"13 Blues For Thirteen Moons" (2006 – present)
In 2006, the band headed to
Europeat the end of April and they played shows up until the start of June. A tour of Canadaand the United States(Silver Mt. Zion's first) began in late July and continued until the end of August. The tour debuted two new songs, "BlindBlindBlind," and "1,000,000 Died to Make This Sound." In a follow-up 2007 tour of Europe, they premiered another two new songs, "Engine Broke" and "13 Blues for Thirteen Moons." The latter of which became the title of their most recent album, which was released in March 2008 and contains all four tracks. The album also contains 12 short tracks of drone and feedback which feed into each other to create a fifth piece on the album, acting a prologue to the album-proper, which, appropriate to its name begins on track 13.
Silver Mt. Zion are currently on tour in first Europe then North America. This tour saw the premier of two new songs, "I Built Myself A Metal Bird, I Fed My Metal Bird The Wings Of Other Metal Birds" and "There's a Light"
The official press release produced by Perfect Pitch PR and available on the Constellation website states that the band's influences include "
free jazz, community sight-singing, Minimalismand American folkways - still anchored to a punk-rock take on neo-classicaland modern music tropes" [http://www.pitchperfectpr.com/a_smz.html Pitch Perfect Pr ] ] .
Menuck has cited
Deerhoofas a positive influence on the band, saying "there’s a way they unpeel a melody so its the oddest sounding thing in the world that we're always excited whenever we can even hint at that".He has been critical of bands like U2who he claims are guilty of "manipulative emotionalism" in their music, something that Silver Mt. Zion try to avoid.
Menuck has also referenced
Minutemen, Minor Threat, early Black Flagin interviews though it seems that these might be more ethical influences as opposed to aesthetic.
An unidentified member of the band has stated in interview that as well as classical and chamber music, Jewish and Eastern European folk music along with American folk influences 'such as Sacred Harp Singing' all play a part in contributing to the band's sound. The same interviewee namechecked
Fairport Conventionas another band working in several different areas of music in the same way. All members of the band are apparently fans of Led ZeppelinCite web|url=http://www.music-dash.co.uk/asmz/|title=Interview with Rachel Clegg ("manchestermusic.co.uk")|accessdate=2008-04-20] .
Lyrics and themes
It's implied in many interviews that Efrim Menuck writes most of the words sung or spoken in the band's pieces, though guitarist Ian Ilavsky noted that Menuck "has really pushed and encouraged people to join in and write a certain number of the lyrics with group singing in mind" [Cite web|url=http://www.silvermtzion.com/nothingatall.php|title=Interview with www.nothingatall.net.|accessdate=2008-04-16]
There are strong political motifs in the band's music. The instrumental "13 Angels Standing Guard 'round the Side of Your Bed" is apparently directed toward
black blocanarchists, according to liner notes. The song "The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes" could be interpreted as lamenting the present state of the world while espousing strong hope for the future. It also references the old anarchist song, " To The Barricades," sung by anarchists during the Spanish Revolution. "Horses in the Sky" contains ostensibly political tracks, including "Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come and Gone)", and "God Bless Our Dead Marines". However, it is worth noting that when asked about the political elements of A Silver Mt. Zion's songs after a concert in Nottingham, Englandin December 2004, Efrim Menuck said that the band are not trying to be 'political' with their songs, but write songs about the sorts of things they talk about with their friends.fact|date=February 2007 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, released in March 2008, was the first album to contain lyric sheets in its insert. According to an interview with Menuck, he'd wanted to include lyric sheets with all the albums 'mostly because there are a lot of people who don’t speak English as a first language' and he wouldn't want the songs to be misheard and misquoted. However, one of Constellation's managers has a 'hardcore aversion to lyric sheets' and it was only with this latest album that Menuck confronted him about this.Cite web|url=http://www.self-titledmag.com/2008/03/25/qa-with-efrim-menuck-of-a-silver-mt-ziongodspeed-you-black-emperor/|title=Q&A with Efrim Menuck of A Silver Mt. Zion/Godspeed You! Black Emperor | Interview by Aaron Richter at Self-Titled Mag|accessdate=2008-04-10|]
Other lyrics are available online, from the band's official website and have been for some time.
The band's original name, A Silver Mt. Zion, would seem to refer to
Temple Mount, the highest point in Jerusalem. However, Efrim later noted in an interview with David Garland, host of Spinning on Air from WNYCradio, that the name hailed from a misheard song lyric.Cite web|url=http://www.wnyc.org/shows/spinning/episodes/2005/11/06|title=Spinning on Air: The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band (2005-11-06)|accessdate=2006-12-12|publisher=WNYC Radio|year=2005|author=A Silver Mt. Zion and David Garland|work=Spinning on Air] Efrim himself is Jewish, and motifs relating to Judaism are occasionally present in the band's music (he described the band's recording of their first album as a "Jewish experience.") He is a diasporist, promoting a non-territorial form of Jewish identity that is conducive to pluralism and intercultural interaction.Fact|date=February 2007
As it has been detailed before in this article, since their first album the band have changed their name several times though all the names revolve around the words "Silver Mount". The band's current name is "Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band", a name the group seem to have stuck with for their past two long-play releases.
Imagery and Packaging
As with most Constellation releases, Silver Mt. Zion records come in recycled cardboard cases with detailed artwork, do not feature the band's name on the album cover (the band's name at any particular time can be found on the spine of each album) and no copyright details on the disc. "13 Blues For Thirteen Moons" was the first album case to feature a photo of the band inside (along with the lyric sheets).
Birds tend to feature heavily in the artwork, often in detailed pictures. Album artwork has also included a sketch of a horse, a mountainscape from the back of a packet of cigarettes and a picture of Nina Simone (in relation to the song "God Bless Our Dead Marines").
Menuck is often identified as the band's frontman and leader, despite the fact that he has repeatedly stated this not be the case. Though Menuck's voice and lyrics are often very prominent on the records, everyone in the band sings and this collective spirit is much more prominent in a live setting when every member of the band is singing in a different harmony. On stage, the band tend to stand in a semi-circle, with most members facing each other as often as the audience.
The band's dynamic has gone through changes with additions and replacements in the line-up. Significant recent events such as Trudeau's breaking her collarbone in a motorbike accident prevented them from touring, have forced the band to approach playing together differently, leading to "more singing and more confidence" . Scott Levine Gilmore's departure from the band after a "little freak-out" has led to a "more live, louder, sound" due to replacement drummer Eric Raven (from fellow Constellation band,
Menuck, speaking for the band in interview, has said " [they all] believe in music as labour" [http://www.drownedinsound.com/articles/3031905 Drowned in Sound - Features - Rockets fall on rockist fools: Efrim Menuck embraces modernity ] ] .
Effects on popular culture
The song "13 Angels Standing Guard 'round the Side of Your Bed" from "
He Has Left Us Alone…" was included in a scene from Harmony Korine's film " Mister Lonely".
"Could've Moved Mountains" from "Born into Trouble…" plays over the ending credits of
The song "This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird's Fallen" was used during the climax of the
David Gordon Greenfilm " Snow Angels"
The introduction of the song "Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk w/ You" from "Born into Trouble…" was recently featured in the trailer for the fourth season of the television show "Lost". [ [http://www.movieweb.com/video/V07LaxVWQLM4Zi VIDEO: Lost - Season 4 TV Spot #2 ] ]
The Sound of Animals Fightingreleased a song titled "Horses in the Sky" on their album " Lover, the Lord Has Left Us..." as homage to the band, in particular the album " Horses in the Sky".
The song "Take These Hands and Throw Them in the River" from Born Into Trouble... is referenced in the Thursday song "For the Workforce, Drowning." [ [http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/For-The-Workforce-Drowning-lyrics-Thursday/3B36C9DA430AF00448256DA6001378B9 Thursday - For The Workforce,Drowning Lyrics ] ]
Beckie Foon- cello
Efrim Menuck- guitar, piano, vocals, sound effects
Eric Craven- drums, percussion
Ian Ilavsky- guitar, organ
Jessica Moss- violin, vocals
Sophie Trudeau- violin, vocals
Thierry Amar- double bass, bass guitar
He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms…"
**Released as: A Silver Mt. Zion
**Format(s): LP, CD
March 13, 2000(Europe), March 27, 2000(world)
Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward"
**Released as: The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
**Format(s): 2×10", CD
October 8, 2001(Europe), October 22, 2001(world)
"This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing,"
**Released as: The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band with Choir
**Format(s): 2×LP, CD
August 25, 2003(Europe), September 2, 2003(world)
Horses in the Sky"
**Released as: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
**Format(s): 2×LP, CD
March 7, 2005(Europe), March 21, 2005(North America)
13 Blues for Thirteen Moons"
**Released as: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
**Format(s): 2xLP, CD
March 10, 2008(Europe), March 25, 2008(world)
The "Pretty Little Lightning Paw" E.P."
**Released as: Thee Silver Mountain Reveries
**Format(s): EP, CD EP
May 10, 2004
Song of the Silent Land" ( compilation album)
**Appear on Track 7 as: Silver Mt. Zion
**Track(s) Contributed track: "Iron Bridge To Thunder Bay"
September 6, 2004
List of bands from Canada
List of Quebec musicians
Music of Quebec
:fnb|aThe limited-release album "All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling", according to Constellation Records website, contains the first known instance of Menuck's vocal and lyrical abilities. In the album "F♯A♯∞" on the song "East Hastings", very quiet singing can be heard starting 8:20 and ending at 8:50.
* [http://www.tra-la-la-band.com Official website]
* [http://cstrecords.com/bands/silver-mt-zion A Silver Mt. Zion] at
* [http://www.archive.org/details/ASilverMtZion Live performances available in the public domain for download] on the
* [http://mobilemanboston.org/2007/05/03/a-silver-mt-zion-at-the-middle-east/ Mobile Man Boston] , hosting live recordings from the Boston area
* [http://www.silvermtzion.com/ Mountains Made of Steam] , a fan site
* [http://lorseau.hinah.com/gallery.php?c=pzic&s=concert&g=asmz Concert photos] by Laurent Orseau
Rockfeedback"Rating|4|5 [http://www.rockfeedback.com/article.asp?nObjectID=5487 link]
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