Sunday, December 12

Tra-La-La (Noise)

I was reading something on the Interweb a few days ago, and someone somewhere mentioned that A Silver Mt. Zion were, if not the most pretentious band ever, then certainly the most pretentious band ever to come out of Canada. There is something faintly absurd about the hypothesis, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. But they kind of ask for it. Every time they release a record the band name undergoes an elongation. They currently perform under the title of The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band. I’m sure there’s loads of meaning in the name that goes right over my head, never mind anything else. And their most recent record is called “he has left us alone but shafts of light sometimes grace the corner of our rooms”. But this is in the tradition of the band of which they are an offshoot, godspeed you black emperor! whose “lift yr. skinny fists like antennas to heaven!” is one of my favourite post-rock records (although I have to admit I don’t really know what post-rock is, and I don’t know many records that come under that heading: all I really know is there is a section in Selectadisc called “post-rock” and they’re in it.) That record is all great swathes of guitar and strings, walls of sound, samples and emotions, classical-meets-counter-culture-rock symphony -- true, the big noise is balanced by passages of quiet melody and breathtaking poise …. but it's the Big Noise that's best. Great noise. I have no idea what it’s all about, but it’s great big emotional noise. Anyways, The Silver Mt. Zion gang, who played in Nottingham last night, are led by godspeed you! frontman Efrim, and seem to be a somewhat smaller and more song-oriented version of gybe (I have picked up the lingo off the Infonet; post-rock shorthand). There’s a couple of girl violinists, a couple of guitarists, a double bass, a drummer who sometimes plays the mandolin, and a lady cellist who I didn’t know was on stage until about five minutes from the end when one of the guitarists moved to the side and there she was, sat at the back, grinning and celloing like a mad woman. I’d been wondering how just a couple of violins were making that deep string sound; now I knew. I love this kind of music. I’m not sure what they were singing about: I only caught about half a dozen words all evening. They included “electric chair” and “Canada”, but this lot are heart-on-your-sleeve anti-capitalist don’t shop at Walmart look what they’re doing to your town kind of people, so I guess most of it was that sort of thing. But they make great noise. Nicking something else off the Internet (and I could never write this myself) they apparently employ “descending chromaticism coupled with occasional major thirds to evoke a perpetual sadness”. I call it great big guitar and strings and thumping rhythmic noise. The Rescue Rooms was packed. For an early Sunday evening show this was pretty special. Dave from work said Nottingham must have more of a counter-culture than he’d realised.

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