The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-la-la Band / BORN INTO TROUBLE AS THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD
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The second Silver Mt Zion album featured an expanded band, with a similarly expanded band name. The addition of cello, second violin and second guitar allowed SMZ to develop richer, denser arrangements while preserving live ensemble playing. The opening instrumental pieces picked up where the debut left off, with found-sound loops and treatments introducing repeated melodic themes that move slowly through various counter-melodies — the greater breadth of instrumentation brought extra subtlety, complexity and harmonic range to bear on these neo-classical dirges. Guitars and vocals moved to the fore on the album’s centerpiece tracks. “Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River” is an astounding juxtaposition of rhythmic thrust and ricocheting vocals, driven by a battered lyrical paranoia that conjures equal parts fear and rage. The calm after this storming piece comes by way of another vocal tune, this time fragile and near-whispered, with dual lines that alternately mask and reinforce each other. A piano and cello interlude prefaces the last side of the record, which features two guitar-driven songs, the first a blazing rock piece that builds to an exuberant distorted climax, the second as close to a pop masterpiece as this band is likely to craft, highlighted by a lovely arpeggio guitar riff and the defiant refrain “musicians are cowards”. While remaining anchored in an underlying sadness and mourning over this failed world, this album reveals an angrier, more urgent face as this unique ensemble charted ever-widening sonic and emotional terrain.
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