2014 in Music: A Silver Mt. Zion — Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

1. Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal) 2. Austerity Blues 3. Early Grave Blues 4. Little Ones Run 5. What We Loved Was Not Enough 6. Rains Thru The Roof At The Grande Ballroom (For Capital Steez)

It’s out final check-in with Constellation Records! A Silver Mt. Zion started as a side-project for Godspeed You! Black Emperor guitarist Efrim Manuel Menuck, offering a more contemplative take on post-rock. The project’s 2000 debut album, He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner Of Our Rooms, is a classic post-rock album, a skeletal take on what is sometimes an ornate genre. A Silver Mt. Zion has slowly been moving away from that skeletal structure and a lot of the beauty within their debut. This is especially true following Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s 2003 breakup. A Silver Mt. Zion took up much of the hole Godspeed had occupied. It shifted from A Menuck sideproject to a fully fledged collective, the themes of power and distrust, typified by GY!BE’s use of feedback, noise, and distortion, started showing up in A Silver Mt. Zion’s songs. All this is a long way of saying I like Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything because it’s basically a Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, and GY!BE are my favorite band. Part of me regrets that none of the solemn beauty of early A Silver Mt. Zion doesn’t appear on this album. But give me six busy, noisy post-rock songs and I’ll probably love them.

As with most any project he’s involved in, Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything is centered on Efrim Manuel Menuck’s guitar tone. Messy and heavily overdriven, his guitar work sounds light catching lightning in a bottle. It seems barely contained, ready to lash out at whatever is around it. Its appearance instantly injects energy into a song, and it’s introduction in both “Austerity Blues” and “What We Loved Was Not Enough” turns previously introspective songs into something maniacal.

A similar trick happens on “Fuck Off Get Free,” the ragged, sloppy opening half suddenly snapping into shape, forming steady booming chords in a clear progression. The first half of the song is focused on expressing distrust in people of power, but the loose nature of the song makes it feel more confused, less like an anthem and more like someone finding their way politically, lashing out at whatever’s around them. I think this is intentional, perhaps a commentary on the way political statements get thrown around without much nuance. The snap out of the disorganized mess in the second half feels truly menacing, truly dark, fully swallowed in the anger of the first half. If there’s one thing A Silver Mount Zion do well on this record, it’s these transformative moments in their songs, the heavy mood shifts and the ability to turn a theme on its head. These songs feel like journeys (not surprising since they’re linearly composed) and that is something I appreciate.

Politics have always played a heavy part in the GY!BE sphere of influence. But Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything deals with politics in direct way I haven’t heard from this collective prior. A statement like “Lord let my son live long enough to see that mountain torn down” is consistent with the themes of, say, F#A#\infty or He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Still Touch the Corner of Our Rooms. But Menuck singing it directly, to me, feels unimaginable on those old albums. I’d expect those sentiments to be alluded to, but not repeated for seven minutes straight. This directness has helped the instrumentals A Silver Mount Zion come up with, allowing them to get more aggressive, to pursue fuller instrumentation, and I enjoy these instrumentals more than anything put out by this collective since 2001. But lyrically, for some reason, I find this kind of off-putting. And… I really don’t know why. It’s not like I shy away from political albums — Propagandhi and Crass are two of my favorite bands. I think maybe it feels like there’s a lack of artistry in the lyrics. This doesn’t bother me in punk (see: Crass) but I guess I hold post-rock as a genre to a different standard. This is a direct representation of a distrustful worldview, and I’m not sure if that’s what I want.

Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything offers that angry, dynamic take on post-rock that I love and that the genre offers up so rarely. Hearing the turns these songs take is great, the power of Menuck’s guitar playing is stirring, and the originality in the composition is a relief to hear, especially in a genre like post-rock that regularly offers up cliche bands. But I do wished the lyrics were more nuanced. And by filling the hole GY!BE left with this record, A Silver Mount Zion have abandoned the skeletal take on the genre that made their early albums classics, a take that really nobody has taken up since. This is a great album. But it’s also a retread towards territory these musicians have already covered 14 years ago. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

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