Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Sadhu Sadhu | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Sadhu Sadhu Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Thu., May 27, 9 p.m. 2010

On six albums across the past decade, this Montreal-based collective—formerly known as A Silver Mt. Zion, Thee Silver Mountain Reveries, and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-la-la Band With Choir, among other permutations—has developed a sprawling, detailed sound by fusing ragged, passionate folk to widescreen post-rock. The group has gotten better and better at harnessing its instrumental depth, and in its current incarnation the layered lines of violinists Jessica Moss and Sophie Trudeau make it seem much bigger than a five-piece. But it wasn't until several members of the band backed the late Vic Chesnutt on last year's At the Cut that they truly moved me. Silver Mt. Zion's recent Kollaps Tradixionales (Constellation), their most song-oriented effort, does it again in Chesnutt's absence—guitarist Efrim Menuck, who's also in Godspeed You! Black Emperor, isn't half the singer Chesnutt was, but his voice swells and cracks with raw emotion. The album begins and ends with huge, episodic compositions, and the 15-minute opener, "There Is a Light," is so intricate and varied that it could stand alone as an EP. The band deals in the kind of cinematic dynamics familiar to fans of Godspeed, but given the way it accomplishes those rises and falls—with resonant string arrangements and elegant four-part horn charts, with former Chicagoan Matana Roberts guesting on alto sax—they seem more like a means to an end than an end in themselves. The melodies are gently bittersweet, in a kind of counterpoint to the band's large-caliber firepower, and even at its most driving and aggressive the music bustles with detail. Silver Mt. Zion have long been inspired by the Ex, and on Kollaps Tradixionales they convincingly transplant the spirit of those Dutch iconoclasts into songs that trade melodic intensity for frenetic art-punk rhythms. —Peter Margasak

Price: $15

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