-
neumu
Thursday, March 23, 2017 
-
-
--archival-captured-cinematronic-continuity error-daily report-datastream-depth of field--
-
--drama-44.1 khz-gramophone-inquisitive-needle drops-picture book-twinklepop--
-
Neumu = Art + Music + Words
Search Neumu:  

illustration



edited by michael goldbergcontact


The Evolution Of 'A Silver Mt. Zion'

"I've never really understand why, if you're interested in having serious conversations with people in a public forum, the serious part of what you talk about somehow gets blown up and characterized as pretentious, or overbearing, or preachy," offers Efrim Menuck, the founding father of Québeçois combo Godspeed You! Black Emperor, whose cinematic and apocalyptic instrumentalism, when coupled with their political content, has found them oft categorized as angry and belligerent and dogmatic and didactic.

Menuck's on the phone from Montreal to talk about his side-project, A Silver Mt. Zion, but he's not afraid of opening up and talking about wider issues that lie closer to his heart. It's just this tendency that has found him often labeled the mouthpiece of a political vehicle.

"I came out of punk rock," he says, heading back to a starting point to explain the thing about modern musical culture that disappoints him most. "When I was a kid that's all I knew. And, y'know, that was a really informal community that existed internationally with its own little fanzines and record labels. And people really took seriously what they were engaged in as an actual culture.

"As the years have gone by, and punk rock turned into something else, and then it turned into something that some idiot named 'indie rock', and then it turned into something that some idiot named 'post-rock', throughout that process I've seen that, somehow, the idea of looking at what you're engaged in as an attempt to contribute to some kind of independent culture, somehow that idea has become incredibly demeaned and degraded and undervalued. I don't understand that, and that's the thing that makes me feel endlessly sad, and endlessly dismayed when I read even small fanzines, now. I don't know why this is such a square idea in 2003, because it seems to me that this is an important idea, and it's all that I've ever truly believed in, that I've ever known, when it comes to making music or any kind of art."

He continues, now shifting to how his voicing of such an idea has become what his main band is best known for. "From the moment that Godspeed started being interviewed, this myth about us refusing to do interviews came about because when we put out our first record, we were freaked out that all of a sudden there were all these people that wanted to ask us questions. We were seriously interested in the idea of talking to people, but we realized we couldn't talk all the time because that's all we'd do. So we decided to pick and choose when we would talk.

"And at the beginning of Godspeed as a band whose records people were buying, a lot of what we had to talk about was this confusion about being this strange little band from Montreal — made up of people who'd spent years playing in other strange little bands — who felt this incredible strangeness in trying to convey these ideas we had to people who didn't really have the slightest idea what we were talking about. All the first interviews we ever did were about that, and so that somehow set the tone for everything that happened after that, and all of a sudden that became the conception of what Godspeed is, even now. Which is this, y'know, hugely moody, political, vegan collective, or something."

He continues: "Because Godspeed is a straight-up collective with nine very hard-headed personalities, our public voice has always been very rigid. We really believe in the idea that we don't want to make any statement unless everyone in the band agrees on it. So, if you remove all the words that people don't agree on, whatever words are left in the collective lexicon can be rigid. But, as individuals, as a group of people talking, we're all for the most part drunken fools. We're all smart-asses, and we're giddy a lot of the time. It's not such a heavy band to hang out with. There's a big difference between the perception that a lot of people have of us and the way we actually are as individuals."

In recent years, it has been through their side-projects that the members of Godspeed! get to have such "other" aspects of their personalities revealed. Aidan Girt's various electro/drumming orgies as 1-Speed Bike and Bottleskup Flenkenkenmike are the most obvious example of such drunken and/or smart-ass desires; his most recent Bottleskup disc coming with a song called "Canada Post-Rock Machine Gullible Sucker (Godspeed Remix)." In his recording venture Set Fire to Flames, David Bryant has looked at producing music from a social circumstance, his two double albums born from getting a bunch of musicians together in isolated locations, getting them drunk, then recording the improv'd results. With A Silver Mt. Zion, Menuck has revealed more of a personal side than what comes through the GY!BE collective. Still, whilst ASMZ was conceived as a place for making quiet, sensitive music, it's not hard to notice their most recent record, "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather +Sing, that they're sounding rather Godspeed!-ish in their newfound grandeur.

"The only way I really truly understand music is playing it live, and the only way I really truly understand playing music live is not like this thing of a quiet little chamber concert, yeah, y'know?," Menuck says, when talk turns to the growth and growth of his former little side-project, which has now blown out into a band every bit as grand as his main digs. "If it's just piano, bass, and violin, I can't imagine how we'd ever perform that in front of anyone in any way that'd make any sort of sense to me. So it's gradually gotten bigger in hoping that we'd make a bigger, louder din each step of the way, so that we could go and present this in a live way. It's been this slow, strange process of turning into a band that can play live."

To chart the growth in grandness as charted by the band Menuck always calls "Mt. Zion," you need only look at the nomenclature that's successively graced each elaborately titled record. On their first album He Has Left Us Alone, But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms..., Menuck's side-project were introduced to the world as A Silver Mt. Zion. On their second album, Born Into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward, they grew to being The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band. And, now, on their third album "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather +Sing, they're The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band With Choir.

So, does all this exponential epic-ness just mean that Mt. Zion are just gradually drawing closer to Godspeed!, it being now not some deliberately-different side-project but just a differing variation on Menuck's particular aesthetic? "I think there are superficial elements that you could point out and see similarities in," he says. "But, to my ears at least, they sound very different. Just because we're getting louder doesn't mean that. Louder doesn't equal Godspeed!."

The initial idea with A Silver Mt. Zion was that they weren't going to be loud. They were a place for Menuck to explore more straight "songwriting" modes than he's able to in GY!BE's grand orchestral collective, it initially a project primed to play sorrowful songs. If a pall of sadness hangs over the first ASMZ album, Efrim soon spells it out straight. "It all started because my dog was sick, and it took a really long time to die, so in the middle of that process — of coming to terms with that — I started writing this music, and I knew I wanted to work in a smaller group because it sounded like a fairly self-indulgent project. And that's how Mt. Zion started. I just asked Thierry and Sophie if they'd help me write the stuff and record it, and so we started working that way," he explains.

He and his two cohorts — both also members of GY!BE — had no ideas, on beginning, of doing anything more than making an album out of these time-and-place type songs that Menuck was making; mostly with just piano, bass and violin. But after Shafts of Light... had been out a year, the band agreed to go on a European tour. So, to fit Menuck's live aesthetic, they expanded to a six-piece lineup, and the resulting tour he calls "a bit of a disaster." Still, when they first put that incarnation of the band together, they wrote a lot of songs on starting to play together, so when they got back home they recorded them. This became Born Into Trouble....

Still, even after expanding to a six-piece, Mt. Zion didn't really exist as anything more than a recording project to return to in the downtime between Godspeed! endeavors. It was only this year, when they set out working on "This Is Our Punk-Rock"... that they felt the band start to come together. "For the first two records we did, it was about this thing of people sitting in a room together trying to play stuff that was a bit out of their reach. Then we'd record it and try and figure out how we'd make a record out of it," Menuck says. "We're only really just starting to find our feet right now. It's only been recently that we've been playing together a lot as a band, and not just existing in the empty spaces, because initially Mt. Zion only got together when Godspeed took a break."

The newly-cemented lineup has now produced an epic record whose four-song-suites/double-album sprawl is concerned with the kind of things that concern their parent band, much of it about the gentrification of inner-city neighborhoods. Such said, this only became clear to the band once the recordings had started; Menuck says, "Things usually make a lot more sense when you look back at them than they do when you're actually putting them together."

And, not planning this out in advance is kind of a recurring theme for his "smaller" project. "Mt. Zion's always been about not making so many future plans, because it's a sketchy little creature. It's only been in this process of the last few months, of sitting in a room and working a lot harder at being an actual band, that we've been able to start thinking more than a couple of weeks in advance." — Anthony Carew [Tuesday, December 16, 2003]


Alejandro Escovedo's Joyous Rebirth

John Vanderslice Kicks Genre

Paul Duncan's Elusive Pop

Stephen Yerkey's Wandering Songs

French Kicks Complete 'Two Thousand'

Spazzy Romanticism: Love Story In Blood Red

Brain Surgeons NYC Rock The Big Questions

Jarboe's 'Men' Charts Turbulent Emotions

Delta 5's Edgy Post-Punk Resurrected

Blitzen Trapper Spiff Things Up

Minus Five: Booze, Betrayal, Bibles and Guns

New Compilation Spotlights Forgotten Folk Guitar Heroes

Chris Brokaw's Experiment In Pop

Old And New With Death Vessel

Silver Jews: Salvation And Redemption

Jana Hunter's Beautiful Doom

Vashti Bunyan Finds Her Voice Again

Nick Castro's Turkish Folk Delight

Katrina Hits New Orleans Musicians Hard

Paula Frazer's Eerie Beauty

The National Find Emotional Balance

Death Cab For Cutie's New Album, Tour

Heavy Trash's Rockabilly Rampage

Help The Wrens Get Their Albums Released!

Devendra Banhart, Andy Cabic Launch Label

Lydia Lunch's Noir Seductions

Bosque Brown's The Real Deal

PDX Pop Now! Fest Announces Lineup

Sarah Dougher Starts Women-Focused Label

Jennifer Gentle's Joyful Psyche

Mountain Goat Darnielle Gets Autobiographical With 'Sunset Tree'

Mia Doi Todd's Beautiful Collaboration

Return of the Gang of Four

Martha Wainwright Finds Her Voice

Brian Jonestown Massacre's Acid Joyride

Solo Disc Due From Pixies' Frank Black

Heartless Bastards' Big-Hearted Rock

Mike Watt's Midlife Journey

The Black Swans Balance Old And New

Nicolai Dunger's Swedish Blues

The Insomniacs' Hard-Edged Pop

Yo La Tengo Collection Due

Juana Molina's 'Homemade' Sound

Beans Evolves

Earlimart's Songs Of Loss

Devendra Banhart's 'Mosquito Drawings'

Negativland Rerelease 'Helter Stupid'

Alina Simone Transforms The Ordinary

Sounds From Nature: Laura Veirs

Octet's Fractured Electric Pop

Sleater-Kinney Working With Lips Producer

The Cult Of Silkworm

The Evolution Of The Concretes

Devendra Banhart's Exuberant New Songs

Catching Up With The Incredible String Band

Gram Rabbit's Desert Visions

Three Indie-Rock Stars Unite As Maritime

Remembering Johnny Ramone

Jarboe's Many Voices

Phil Elvrum's Long Hard Winter

First U.S. Release For Vashti Bunyan Album

Incredible String Band To Tour U.S.

New Music From Lydia Lunch

Le Tigre Protest The Bush War Presidency

Joel RL Phelps: Bleak Songs Rock Hard

Time Tripping With Galaxie 500

Patti Smith Wants Bush Out!

Sharron Kraus: A New Kind Of Folk Music

The Fiery Furnaces' Psychedelic Theater

Harder, Heavier Burning Brides

Sonic Youth's Ongoing Experiment

The Dt's Do It Their Way

Poster Children Cover Political Rock

Rare Thelonious Monk Recordings Due

Uneasy Pop From dios

Beck, Lips, Waits Cover Daniel Johnston

Understanding Franz Ferdinand

The Truly Amazing Joanna Newsom

Mylab's Boundary-Crossing Experiments In Sound

Have You Heard Jolie Holland Whistle?

The 'Magical Realism' Of Vetiver

The Restless, Rootsy Songs Of Eszter Balint

The Sun Sets On The Blasters

Devendra Banhart To Tour U.S.

The East/West Fusion Sounds Of Macha

Destroyer Gets Mellow For Your Blues

TV On The Radio Get Political

Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse To Play Lollapalooza 2004

New Music From The Fall

Apocalyptic Sound From The Intelligence

Fast And Rude With The Casual Dots

'Rejoicing' With Devendra Banhart

New Album, Tour From The Polyphonic Spree

Shearwater Take Wing

Sleater-Kinney To Tour East/West Coasts

Resurrecting Rocket From The Tombs

Visqueen Want To Get A Riot Goin' On

Lloyd Cole Makes A Commotion

Funkstörung's 'Cut-Up' Theory

Waiting For Mirah's C'mon Miracle

Electrelane Find Their Voice

The Television Is Still On!

Experimental Sounds From Hannah Marcus

The Ponys Play With Rayguns

Ex-Mono Men Leader Returns With The Dt's

Mountain Goats' Darnielle Adopts A More Hi-Fi Sound

Sun Kil Moon To Tour U.S., Europe

Nothin' But The Truth From The Von Bondies

Sultans Survive 'Shipwreck'

Sebadoh Reunite For Spring Tour

Xiu Xiu's 'Reality' Rock

Meet The Patients

Beth Orton, M. Ward Make Sadness Taste Sweet

Oneida's Pathway To Ecstasy

Radiohead, Pixies, Dizzee Rascal To Play Coachella

Young People Tour Behind War Prayers

Pixies Tour Dates Announced

Ani DiFranco Tells It Like It Is

Deerhoof Back For 2004 With Milkman

McLusky Set To 'Bring On The Big Guitars' Again

Pixies Reunite For U.S., European Tours

American Music Club, Decemberists To Play NoisePop 2004

Damien Rice Set To Tour U.S.

The Frames Accept Your Love

Punk Rock's A-Frames To Re-Record Third Album

Finally! Mission Of Burma Record New Album

A Solo Detour For Ladybug Transistor's Sasha Bell

Return Of The Old 97's

Spending The Night With Damien Rice

Tindersticks Reissues Due This Spring

The Evolution Of 'A Silver Mt. Zion'

Neil Young Rocks Australia With 'Greendale'

Poster Children Back In Action

'The Great Cat Power Disaster Of 2003'

Chicks On Speed's Subversive Strategies

Oranger At A Crossroad

Peaches On Tour And In Control

Jawbreaker's Complete Dear You Sessions To Be Released

Belle & Sebastian + Trevor Horn = Sunny Pop Nirvana

Von Bondies' Pawn Shoppe Heart

Descendents Are Back!

Modest Mouse Touring; Album Due in 2004

London Suede Take A (Permanent?) Break

Saul Williams Wants You To Think For Yourself

The 'Zen' Sound Of Calexico

Elliott Smith Dead AT 34

Debut Due From Mark Kozelek's Sun Kil Moon

The Hunches: Music That'll 'Fucking Live Forever'

Vic Chesnutt Speaks His Mind

90 Day Men Cancel Tour

Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor Highlight SF Jazz Festival

For My Morning Jacket, It's The Music That Matters

EP Due From The Polyphonic Spree

Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova Collaborate On EP

The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Ben Lee

Catching Up With Cheerfully Defiant Tricky

Hanging Around With The Polyphonic Spree

Sophomore Album Due From The Shins

Noise Rock From Iceland's Singapore Sling

Death Cab To Tour U.S.

Rufus Wainwright's Want One Is 'Family Affair'

Death Cab's Transatlanticism On The Way

Heartfelt Rock From Sweden's Last Days Of April

The Minus 5 Get Down With Wilco

Tywanna Jo Baskette's Southern-Gothic Rock

Xiu Xiu's Stewart Takes On 'Gay-bashing'

Portishead Producer Resurfaces Behind New Diva

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wire, Primal Scream On Buddyhead Comp

Yeah Yeah Yeahs To Tour West Coast

Sonic Youth, Erase Errata Kick Off 'Buddy Series'

The Locust Are One Scary Band

Damien Rice In The 'Here And Now'

Remembering Karp's Scott Jernigan

ATP-NY Postponed 'Til At Least 2004

The Soul Of Chris Lee

Gits' Frenching The Bully To See Re-Release

Stephen Malkmus Is In Control

Superchunk To Release Rarities Set; Teenage Girls To Swoon As A Result

Summer Touring For The Gossip

Babbling On About Deerhoof

Irish Song Poet Damien Rice's O Released In U.S.

Chatting With ATP's Barry Hogan

Former Digable Planets Frontman Surfaces With Cherrywine

ATP L.A. Festival Rescheduled For Fall

Freakwater's Janet Bean Takes A Solo Turn

Lee's 'Cool Rock'

Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Highlight YES NEW YORK

Mark Romanek's 'Hurt' Revives Johnny Cash's Career

The Rapture's Post-Punk, Post-Dance Sound

R.E.M., Wilco, Modest Mouse Highlight Bumbershoot Fest

Set Fires To Flames' Sleep-Deprivation Sound

Southern Gothic Past Shadows Verbena's La Musica Negra

The Subtle Evolution Of Yo La Tengo

Spring Tour For Jolie Holland (Plus A Live Album)

Liz Phair Still Pushing The Limits

Gold Chains Wants You To Dance And Think

Young People's War Prayers On The Way



peruse archival
 



-
-snippetcontactsnippetcontributorssnippetvisionsnippethelpsnippetcopyrightsnippetlegalsnippetterms of usesnippetThis site is Copyright © 2003 Insider One LLC
-