The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward

The Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward

Absolutely stunning. Born out of the incestuous post-everything music scene in Montreal, Canada, which features artists in the more well-known Godspeed You Black Emperor! and side projects like Set Fire to Flames, Molasses, 1 Speed Bike, and others, The Silver Mount Zion has released an album that verges on pure genius – and perhaps madness. Expanded to a six-piece and a much longer and more amusing name, Born into Trouble… gives the impression that The Silver Mount Zion is now much more than a side project. In fact, this album is also more accessible to the average music fan than recent work by Godspeed You Black Emperor!
The basic elements of the band’s debut album, He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms, remain on Born into Trouble… The basics of each song are the piano lines by Efrim of GYBE!, and sound loops and strings fill out each piece. What is added on Born Into Trouble… are more guitars and strings and more of an emphasis on vocals, which are largely responsible for carrying the most impressive songs here into something of an otherworldly level.
Once described as a project to make “fucked-up chamber music” by Efrim, The Silver Mount Zion has achieved so much more on this album. Never before have cello, violin, and piano sounded so haunting, chilling, and yet the incorporation of guitars, sound samples, and vocals that go from chaotic and angry to whispered and pained give these songs a completely different feel, one that clearly demonstrates why we, as rock fans and aficionados, can so enjoy this style of music. Post-rock is a ridiculous term for something so orchestrated and symphonic, but The Silver Mount Zion uses very real song structures and a punk-rock kind of energy and urgency, and that makes for an amazing amalgamation of styles and sounds.
The songs themselves vary from long, intricate works of beauty – such as the opening instrumental “Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats of Fire are Falling from the Sky!” – to long, morose, almost minimalistic tracks like “Could’ve Moved Mountains.” Even the instrumentals convey deep layers of feeling, like the overwhelmingly melancholy “This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird’s Fallen” and the stark, haunting “Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk With You.”
The whole album builds up to the mid-album climax of “Take These Hands and Throw Them in the River,” which introduces the vocals, echoed and sung (at times almost shouted) over urgent and screeching strings and guitar. After drifting off again, it builds back to a crescendo of drums, guitar, and strings in a wash of distortion by the end of “C’mon Come On (Loose and Endless Longing).” And again vocals add another dimension to “The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes,” only here, instead of urgent and intense, they’re in the form of an almost tortured, sometimes whispered style over a more guitar-focused song that ends the album.
To describe this album as anything other than brilliant would be to do it a disservice. The emotions that these musicians are able to convey just through the pull of a bow across the strings or a simple, haunting piano line are astounding. And adding vocals to the mix gives the added benefit of creating something more accessible than the more instrumental based projects like Godspeed You Black Emperor! I can’t possibly convey how good this album is, whether in its softest moments or its more intense.