Release Date: Jan 21, 2014
Record label: Constellation
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
On their first offering in three years, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra up the ante in urgent, angry style. While the foundations for the music on Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything were forged on 2010's Kollaps Tradixionales, they've come into sharper, weightier focus here. Efrim Menuck's gift for intimate, sweeping melody remains, but it's usually woven underneath a rafter-rattling 21st century meld of punk, metal, folk forms, and more.
On what is arguably their most direct, accessible rock record, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra are no less compromising in their stirring sound or their confrontational content. A general survey of their catalogue reveals songs infused with a rightful cynicism but also an almost militant allegiance to hope, as if the band is willing itself to fight from being snowed under by life's unending avalanche of horseshit.This time around, though, a central obsession over premature death and economic hardship, particularly among musicians, pervades these songs.
Since their inception in 1999 Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra have undergone various name, personnel and musical changes, but have always maintained an unwavering underlying aesthetic informed by their view of the world and their place on the outskirts of it. In many respects we may be living in bleak, bewildering times but they are here to show us that we are not alone, and provide a soundtrack to the surrounding alienation and disenchantment. Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light Over Everything is their seventh album (all released through Constellation) and it sees the band’s long term evolution continue as they deliver one of their strongest pieces of work to date.
Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything billows and bellows with rage and fire from the moment the brief child spoken-word intro fades and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra burst into opening track “Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal)”. Long gone is the band that began their career as a kind of post-rock chamber orchestra playing sensitive meditations, as found on debut record He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms.
Efrim Menuck and his current incarnation of Thee Silver Mt. Zion certainly bring a splurge of rock and orchestra. A five-piece of bass, drums, guitar and two violins, they spend a large part of this album thrashing gloriously through distortion. “Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal)” starts with big, dumb hooks that churn hypnotically into a familiar, astonishing blast.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, they of the ever subtly changing band name, have come a long way from their debut record, A Silver Mt. Zion's 2000 He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms…. Back then the links with Godspeed You! Black Emperor (with whom the Memorial Orchestra share three members) were as clear as day.
Last September, at the Polaris Music Prize gala in Toronto, writer/Pitchfork contributor Jessica Hopper introduced shortlist nominees Godspeed You! Black Emperor by distilling their many achievements down to a single word: “no. ” Which is to say, the Montreal ensemble’s success is a direct product of their refusal to engage in traditional music-industry practices or self-promotional glad-handing—an outlook that also extended to not showing up at the Polaris ceremony, nor gladly accepting the $30,000 purse they won later that night. (As per band tradition, they let their feelings be known via a collectively written communiqué.
The name Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra has, like its membership and musical style, morphed and shifted over the past 15 years increasingly distancing itself away from the core members’ alter egos of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.Let’s be straight about this, ‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’ is not a Godspeed record under a different name, despite sharing the same fondness for overly long song titles. Whereas their parallel incarnation are masters of weaving huge tapestries of doom-laden pieces of rock, Thee Silver Mt.
There are certain bands and musicians that, for many of us, are personal repositories, banks of emotions, sentiments, thoughts, and beliefs that we can return to and withdraw from for as long as we have access to a CD or MP3. These bands and their mnemonic prompts reintroduce us to what we may have felt and even been at a particular moment in our lives, acting as stockhouses of affect and attitude that permit us to compartmentalize ourselves in time and space in a manner that doesn’t interfere with the need to be a dutiful employee or a complaisant automaton. For me, one of these bands is Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and while I’ll be the first to admit that GY!BE and Thee Silver Mt.
Originally a spinoff group founded by core Godspeed You! Black Emperor members Efrim Menuck, Thierry Amar and Sophie Trudeau, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra (SMZ for brevity) emerged during Godspeed's seven-year hiatus as the cornerstone of Montreal's venerable Constellation Records. Long gone are their sparse ballads and "busted waltzes." SMZ have struck out definitively into screeching, tightly wound post-metal.
Efrim Menuck’s been a lot of things: musician, agitator, activist, ringleader of the seminal Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But on Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything, his latest under the ever-evolving Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra moniker, Menuck plays an entirely new role: father. “We live on the island called Montreal,” the frontman’s four-year-old son, Ezra, says at the top of the album.
There’s a common question that comes up in the music reviewing world. How many times should you listen to an album before you review it? Some think that the initial feelings that an album imparts should the basis for a review. Others think that albums need much more time to mature and grow. I’m of the latter group, in part, thanks to albums like Thee Silver Mt.
Having begun as a side project of Godspeed! You Black Emperor’s Efrim Menuck, their sound has journeyed from early post-rock experiments into the hinterlands of drone. ‘Austerity Blues’ sounds like Fairport Convention’s hypnotic ‘A Sailor’s Life’ played in a wind tunnel, ‘Fuck Off Get Free’ has the kind of unsettling noise you expect from Godspeed, and the eerie violins on ‘Take Away These Early Grave Blues’ make it feel like a death march soundtrack. It’s a moving record.
Musicians hate categorization. Remember all those groups who made a name for themselves off the back of the "grunge" label, only later insisting that they preferred to think of themselves as "post-New Wave heavy basement-core" (or whatever)? This Godspeed You! Black Emperor offshoot always rejected being pigeon-holed and continue to do so. Their press release claims that they meld "hardcore, blues, garage, and dark metal influences that have nothing to do with anything so quaint as 'post-rock.'" .
It’s 2014 and one of the most overtly political bands of the 21st century ought to have a lot to say. Having made the shift from their instrumental music with their parent-band Godspeed You! Black Emperor to a more lyrical approach to political music in the aftermath of 9/11, Thee Silver Mt. Zion were a means of bringing protest songs – in their own oblique and idiosyncratic way – into the underground.
The first track here, Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal), opens with a child’s voice. “We live on the island called Montreal, and we make a lot of noise,” he states, “because we love each other!” The first two statements are clearly true true: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra calls the Quebec capitol home, and “noisy” is typically the first adjective used to describe its sound.
This is my post-rock forgiveness story. It was 2012, and there were two drones, one sample, and a moment I told myself I had to set aside. My room was more dust than air and my window was too small and grimy to let in the afternoon light. No one I lived with cared about anything beyond pop music—I put off buying the new Amon Tobin LP for six months because I was scared of what they would say.
Marissa Nadler, July Marissa Nadler’s limnetic new album, July, is both eerie and soothing, a lullaby written to induce nightmares. Burrow deeper and the odd hallucinatory qualities reveal themselves; images blend, fade and reform with no real discernible pattern. This album is composed of memories, the kind that your mind tries to reshape over time to shield you from what really happened.
It seems a bit churlish to mark down a record based on “could do better” criteria, and to wish they’d stick to their original sound, but it’s tough not to in this case. It’s not like this is a bad record – it’s a very good record, in fact. It’s a set of great, intense, folky-punky-indie-noise-rock songs jams that make a glorious racket and quite frequently take flight into levels of intensity that’ll get your arm-hairs standing up.