a silver mount zion

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A Silver Mt. Zion

[Post brought to you by reader J., expert on Canadian music (and other kinds too), and photographer extraordinaire. You can see some of his lovely photos at Jumps & Cuts.]

Profoundly sad, inspired and visceral, A Silver Mount Zion’s He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corners of Our Rooms (2000) is a rare thing in music, an album that captures almost perfectly a singular emotional experience. At times lonely and claustrophobic, its haunting themes of inconceivable sadness ring unfortunately too true. There are little hints of light here and there, little openings in the songs where a bit of sunshine peeks through, like fond remembrances. That’s what I find so amazing about the work, the completeness; the totality of the emotion of the subject matter, the sadness, the happy memories, the grief, its all well-blended together; wonderfully distilled into eight tracks.

“Broken Chord Can Sing A Little” is maybe the saddest track, mainly because it’s so surprising in its depth of feeling and utter stillness at times. It feels uncomfortable, like watching someone cry or when you happen to drive past a funeral procession. It’s that shock and discomfort that I think lets you know how close you are to the pain; it’s genuine. “Sit In the Middle of Three Galloping Dogs” is intense, almost angry and focused and “Stumble Then Rise On Some Awkward Morning” is also intense, but in a more grand, less angry way.

I like the strange intro harmony on “13 Angels Standing Guard ‘Round the Side of Your Bed”, its an ambient sadness that feels like a heavily overcast rainy day that is occasionally pierced by sunlight; its the sitting around laughing at all the funny things they used to do part. You laugh, but it’s still sad. The last track “For Wanda,” whose death from cancer is the subject of the album, is a wonderful dirge of a song worthy of any great hero, even if that hero is a beloved dog. It ends beautifully with a more upbeat theme apropos for entering the hereafter. This is a fantastic, sublime album.

“this whole record is for Wanda…”

Another perspective: My 23-month old son, who doesn’t understand the sadness part, keeps requesting that the album be replayed, “Again, again, more, more…”

For: People who have lost a pet. Fans of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Do Make Say Think.

A Silver Mount Zion – Site | Label (Constellation)

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A Silver Mt Zion – 13 Angels Standing Guard Round the Side Of Your Bed
A Silver Mt Zion – Sit In the Middle Of Three Galloping Dogs