Godspeed side project evolves

By Andrew M. Gaerig

Daily Arts Writer

Few post-rock fans can deny Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s beautiful guitar and string cacophonies, though the band’s high-handed political views have always been a cause for concern. A Silver Mt. Zion, which consists of six core members of the GYBE camp, have always warmed fans’ hearts by trading vague political views for, well, vague spirituality.

Not that ASMZ are the Sunday-go-to-meeting type, but they’ve mined the potent fields of fire and brimstone preaching and salvation in the face of death better than just about anyone.

Hints of social unrest showed up in 2001’s Born Into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward, and “This Is Our Punk Rock”… continues the trend. Ringmaster Efrim actually sings on all four tracks, and while he’s no virtuoso, his apocalyptic Neil Young creak is somewhat endearing, even given the dire nature of his lyrics.

The vocals are most effective on the gospel inspired coda of “Goodbye Desolate Railyard” and the haunting choir chant of “Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom.”

Despite the newfound reliance on vocals, the band still preaches most effectively with lengthy, orchestral passages. The strings that erupt during “Sow Some Lonesome Corner…” are both achingly beautiful and somewhat disturbing.

The searing guitar march of “American Motor Over Smoldered Field” is as vicious as anything the band has put to tape, and the orgy of voices and strings that flood “Babylon Was Build on Fire/Starnostars” are as effective for their rumbling buildup as they are for their striking melodicism.

The vocals, as well as the song titles, betray the band’s political and spiritual intent, but tolerance of the band’s hazy mantras is essential. Like the trashiest of pop songs, the appeal of “This Is Our Punk Rock”… isn’t in the message, but in the hook.

ASMZ crafts their hooks out of jagged string sections, harrowing gospel bonfires and scorching white-noise fever. This is community music filtered through alleys and train yards and abandoned buildings, as gorgeous as it is devastating.

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