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Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra

February 23, 2010

Efrim Manuck is known to most for his role in Godspeed You Black Emperor.  Godspeed You Black Emperor was an eight or nine piece rock band that relied as heavily on viola, tympani, and french horn as much as it relied on guitar, bass, and drums in performing instrumental pieces that averaged 15 minutes in length.  They didn’t make radio-ready jams, but they did earn surprisingly widespread popularity due to their earth-shaking intensity and overwhelming multimedia performances.

It was in the shadow of this rock behemoth that Efrim’s side project, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra, quietly came into existence.  Originally producing records that sounded like more delicate variations of Godspeed’s sprawling instrumental soundscapes, Silver Mt. Zion eventually differentiated itself through tighter song structure and the use of the human voice to great effect.

The singing on Silver Mt. Zion’s records was only occasional at first and usually tucked way into the background.  By their third record, their sound had evolved dramatically and singing now played an integral role.  Silver Mt. Zion’s heavy reliance on vocals is surprising as much because of Efrim’s Godspeed heritage as it is because of his semi-tuned croaking style.  His voice is hardly soothing, but it’s highly evocative and, like Geddy Lee of Rush or Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, I’ve learned to love it and can’t imagine this music without it.

Silver Mt. Zion’s albums are true works of art and their live shows are notoriously powerful, and this is a good time to be a fan because their new record, Kollaps Tradixionales, was released last Tuesday and they’ll be playing the Cat’s Cradle on May 20th.

Listen.

Buy.

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