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Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - Kollaps... Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 5
Musicianship 8
Lyrics 5.75
Production 7.75
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 4.25
Reviewer Tilt 6.75
Final Verdict: 65%
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Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - Kollaps...

Reviewed by: losnoufy (08/04/10)
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - Kollaps Tradixionales
Record Label: Constellation
Release Date: February 16, 2010


If a band plans to grab my attention by opening its album with a ten-plus-minute opus, it had better be backing Bob Dylan and have a pretty damn compelling reason why I should spend ten minutes of my day getting acclimated with their record instead of playing Bubble Spinner. Unfortunately for Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra (formerly known as Silver Mt. Zion, The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir, and Thee Silver Mountain Reveries), their 15-minute opener, “There is a Light,” with all its symphonic splendor, offers far less of a reason to stay tuned than does, say, Dylan’s “Hurricane.” There is no poetic storyline to demand your concentration or charismatic voice to call your senses to action. Instead, SMZ leaves you hanging after a 10-minute cliff-scale of eagle-screeching strings and chugging guitars while they descend back into the lazy twinkle-twinkle guitar riff that started the song.

The rest of the seven tracks, each one of which, excluding the interlude, clocks in at over six minutes, compliment the excessively sprawling opener with more of the same. “I Built Myself A Metal Bird” explodes with an off-kilter but tasteful 7/8 signature and never slows down. The standout track is one of the few moments on Kollaps Tradixionales where the band uses its time and space wisely; it doesn’t dip into a different rhythmic or melodic foundation just for the sake of being outwardly dynamic, as do most of the other tracks. As a result, you’re actually inclined to believe frontman Efrim Menuck as he yelps “Dance, you motherfuckers!” to an onslaught of driving guitars, drums, and strings.

The aforementioned song’s fellow, however, is antagonizing to my patience and completely diminishes any semblance of momentum track #2 might have gained. “I Fed My Metal Bird The Wings Of Other Metal Birds” takes nearly four minutes to wade its way through cello-tuning noises and senseless guitar noodling to get to the point, only to build up to the exact same riff that began, ended, and anchored the track before. The title track (minus one letter that was deemed just too damn normal for Thee Silver Mt. Zion), “Kollapz Tradixional,” has little new to offer as it tapers off into a distant piano tune vaguely reminiscent of the four minutes of nonsense from the track before (similar in a manner that seems more accidental than conceptual).

The minute-and-a-half-long interlude, “Collapse Traditional,” is refreshing for it’s simple, major-key progression and pleasantly bite-sized vocal melody. Perhaps it is no coincidence that it is the only one of the three variations of the title that is spelled correctly in English, even if we still have not the slightest clue what it means or where it comes from; at least, the over-the-top, universe-scoped wall of sound doesn’t offer one.

The third and final titular perversion, “Kollaps Tradicional,” again, begins with distant ambient noise and ends about seven minutes later with intensified vocals and very little regard for melody. Finally, Kollaps Tradixionales closes with “’Piphany Rambler.” True to its name, and to the tradition set by its preceding tracks, it takes almost six minutes for the song to start gaining any kind of momentum. Then, in a fashion that has, at this point, become typical, if not downright expected, the song drops out into empty space and loses almost all the momentum it struggled to gain after its first six minutes of nonsense. Gradually, Menuck’s hollow, desperate voice, that would far better lend itself to a British punk band than to a decidedly post-rock “orchestra,” builds to yet another nearly indistinguishable chant. Meanwhile, the guitars and string section scale yet another monumental and inevitably disappointing cliff. Only this time you can feel the face crumble and dissolve into the empty space SMZ spent so much valuable record time creating before you even reach the end. The album commences with about 40 seconds of fading instruments and Menuck’s weakened voice as it trills off into nothing.

To be clear, I don’t think Kollaps Tradixionales is an absolutely horrible or hopeless album. I applaud ambition in all instances, no matter how ill conceived or poorly executed the extravagant idea. But all the harsh (perhaps overly harsh) words above, I think, are necessary to highlight SMZ’s fatal flaw, one that plagues many bands who, by their own devices or not, have been labeled any variation of “post-rock”: they sacrifice traditional songwriting values, which have been proven effective, for the simple sake of not being traditional. As a result, they fail to get any kind of point across or create a real sense or feeling with their songs.

Dylan has never wasted a verse on a line that didn’t contribute to what he wanted to say with any particular song. And if it seems irrelevant to compare SMZ with arguably the world’s greatest folk songwriter of all-time, take Sigur Ros, arguably the greatest post-rock band of our time, for instance. Every second of every guitar-and-bow noise bridge is used to emphasize some greater purpose of the song. While SMZ went out of their way to avoid being formulaic, they fell into a subtle but momentum-fizzling formula that pervades almost the entire record. There are great ideas, and at least a few moving moments, on this album…just not enough to hold its own weight in the zero-gravity space it creates.

Recommended If You LikeKaddisfly's "Forest," The Mars Volta's 4-minute delay pedal jams, Explosions in the Sky (but with much lower standards), Godspeed You! Black Emperor
 
Displaying posts 1 - 6 of 6
11:34 AM on 08/06/10
#2
FireInTheSky
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I fairly strongly disagree with this review. Personally, I thought it was a really solid album... one of their strongest efforts, if not their best. I don't think you can come in expecting traditional songwriting, so the Bob Dylan comparison does seem irrelevant. Sigur Ros is also a different beast. For me, this album drips with intentionality and purpose.

As a "post-rock" musician, I take a bit of offense to the line about sacrificing traditional songwriting values for the sake of not being traditional. I don't think this is true of any good post-rock effort, and certainly not of this album. It is not to avoid the traditional songwriting values that have been "proven effective", but rather because these conventions are somehow insufficient to express ourselves freely. And who cares what has been "proven"? What musician wants to only play what has worked for other people? Music is in many ways about constant experimentation and exploration.

This is a good album. Maybe not an incredible one, but not worthy of these sorts of slams, in my opinion.
01:22 PM on 08/06/10
#3
losnoufy
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I fairly strongly disagree with this review. Personally, I thought it was a really solid album... one of their strongest efforts, if not their best. I don't think you can come in expecting traditional songwriting, so the Bob Dylan comparison does seem irrelevant. Sigur Ros is also a different beast. For me, this album drips with intentionality and purpose.

As a "post-rock" musician, I take a bit of offense to the line about sacrificing traditional songwriting values for the sake of not being traditional. I don't think this is true of any good post-rock effort, and certainly not of this album. It is not to avoid the traditional songwriting values that have been "proven effective", but rather because these conventions are somehow insufficient to express ourselves freely. And who cares what has been "proven"? What musician wants to only play what has worked for other people? Music is in many ways about constant experimentation and exploration.

This is a good album. Maybe not an incredible one, but not worthy of these sorts of slams, in my opinion.
I admit I was a little bit overly harsh in that review, in fact I think I actually said that in the review. But I needed to say all those things to make my point. I don't think this was a horrible album, just poorly executed.

I consider myself a fan of well-made "post-rock" (even though I hate that term) music. I have no problem with bands experimenting with, stretching, or even completely ignoring whatever standard song formats have been developed throughout the history of popular song. In fact, I think every artist should, at least at some point, abandon each and every songwriting tradition at some point. But the challenge is to figure out which traditional methods to abandon and which ones to use to your advantage. I think SMZ could have cut a few songs just about in half...the ambient buildups would better serve their purpose in smaller doses, in my opinion.

I understand that folk music really has absolutely nothing to do with post-rock and vice-versa, but I still think the comparison was valid in making my point: that it is perfectly acceptable to allow your songs to go to extremes, whether that means having 20 verses or four minutes of ambient buildup leading into the same breakdown from the previous song, IF, and only if, it contributes to the greater good of the song/album. In my opinion, SMZ did not further the interest or intentions of the songs by adding those long intros, etc.

Thus, I meant no offense to the post-rock genre as a whole...in fact, I meant no offense to anyone. Like I said, there are some great ideas and a high level of energy on this album. I was only so hard on them because I felt that was the only way to communicate what killed the album for me. I don't mean to discourage anyone from listening to or buying this album, because many people, presumably including yourself, are not as burnt-out on unconventionally long concept/theme albums as much as I am.

And that is why forums exist and why people are allowed to comment on album reviews. So thank you for actually reading and caring enough to share your opinions. I would have respected that even if you seemed like you didn't know what you were talking about.
05:25 PM on 08/08/10
#4
ohmessylife
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So...you think Explosions in the Sky are better than TSMZ?
10:34 AM on 08/11/10
#5
vampxmusic
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I havent heard this album yet but I'll check it out now. the other 2 I have I thought were pretty good. And hoesntly, I dont see how anyone here can be comparing Explosions In The Sky to TSMZ. apples and oranges people, duh...
04:29 PM on 09/04/10
#6
losnoufy
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So...you think Explosions in the Sky are better than TSMZ?
Yes. Personally, I do. I think the whole long-winded thing suits them a lot better. Personally, of course.
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