Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Kollaps Tradixionales

January 01, 1970



It’s no stretch seeing Efrim Menuck as a Tom Wolfe-like
figure in the independent rock era, and it extends beyond the co-founder of
Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s fondness for exclamation points. Menuck likes
reality writ-large, his music favoring the grand statement over the
straightforward narrative. One suspects that this line from epic disc-opener
“There Is a Light” could serve as a mission statement: “Man, don’t you be meek,
there ain’t no damn glory in the long retreat.” The 15-plus minutes of slow-but-inevitable
guitar and strings burgeons into wave upon wave of horn-filled crescendos
capped with marching beats, choirs of harmonies and Menuck’s adenoidal keening.
Dedicated to his new-born son, the song is a shout into the dark, an
affirmation of meaning in the absence of all proof, and one helluva kick-off.


This is the band’s sixth record, and first since shedding
three members and with them the “Tra-La-La Band” from their plenty-busy-already
moniker. But operating as a quintet here, there’s no drop-off in intensity. Layers
of aggro guitars color the driving 7/4 beat of “I Built Myself A Metal Bird” in
stark hues (reminiscent of The Fire Show’s nerve-wracking rock), Menuck’s
staccato sing-shout meant to capture the exclamation-overloaded verses (sample:
“I built! My! Self! A! Metal! Bird!”). It’s an exhausting but exhilarating ride
– thankfully “I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds” opens with a
well-earned respite, tilting avant garde initially as guitar noise and
percussion-crashes battle primordially with string squiggles until a beautiful
new form – presumably the now-sated metal bird — emerges and hijacks the tempo
into a rocking orchestral rush. The middle three tracks – meant to comprise
Side 3 of a 4-sided set – form a triptych of trad-based laments. The creeping
march of “Kollapz Tradixional (Thee Olde Dirty Flag)” captures Menuck’s dystopian-yet-hopeful
view – “there’s trumpets in heaven, six feet underground/mighty and muddy, they
faintly resound” – and “Collapse Traditional (For Darling)” is an 88-second,
pump organ-and-string vignette bridging to the warped electric sea shanty
“Kollaps Traditional (Bury 3 Dynamos).”


Side 4 closes with another lengthy meditation on life’s
tribulations and our perseverance in their face, “‘Piphany Rambler.” Unfolding
gently in chambers of restrained guitar feedback, the song plods forward
inexorably on insistent string sections and marching drums, promising but never
quite delivering catharsis because, in the end, that’s up to us:  “Swing your blues like a hammer,” Menuck keens,
“swing it with a heart that bursts and shine your light on everything.” It may
be the only response left, but at least it’s an honest one and leavens any
hints of pretension.


This is not an easy listen, but it’s meant as a challenge.
Menuck can be didactic, his voice an acquired taste. Some sections drag, others
grate. But in the end, the reward is substantial. Or, if you prefer,


Standout Tracks: “‘Piphany
Rambler” “There Is a Light” JOHN SCHACHT





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