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A SILVER MT. ZION

Post Rock/Math rock • Canada


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A Silver Mt. Zion picture
A Silver Mt. Zion biography
Originally formed by GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR guitarist Efrim Menuck, bassist Thierry Amar and violinist Sophie Trudeau, A SILVER MT. ZION was formed as a vehicle for Efrim to explore his own musical ideas. The group has since expanded to a seven-piece, and play a slow, brooding style very simmilar in feel to the band from which they were spawned. At the same time however, their sound contains more of an experimental edge and less of the ear-splitting climaxing that has defined GYBE. They also feature vocals from Efrim, a characteristic not usually seen in bands of this style.

Their name varies slightly on each album, releasing their sophmore effort "Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward" under the name THE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA AND TRA-LA-LA BAND, adding "WITH CHOIR" to that name for their third album "This Is Our Punk Rock", releasing "The "Pretty Little Lightning Paw" E.P." under the name THEE SILVER MOUNTAIN REVERIES, and reverting to THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND for 2005's "Horses in the Sky".

Their best album is generally considered to be their debut, 2000's "He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms".

See also:
- Fly Pan Am
- Godspeed You Black Emperor!
- Set Fire To Flames
- Valley Of The Giants




Why this band must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
They present simmilar ideas as Godspeed You Black Emperor in a different (and sometimes more conventionally progressive) form, and are generally regarded as one of the major post-rock bands.



Discography:
He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms, studio album (2000)
Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward, studio album (2001)
"This is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing (2003)
The "Pretty Little Lightning Paw" E.P. (2004)
Horses In the Sky (2005)

A Silver Mt. Zion official website

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He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light SometimesHe Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes
Constellation 2000
Audio CD$8.94
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A SILVER MT. ZION discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

A SILVER MT. ZION top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.96 | 95 ratings
He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Rooms
2000
3.53 | 65 ratings
Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards
2001
3.11 | 41 ratings
This Is Our Punk-Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing
2003
3.87 | 73 ratings
Horses In The Sky
2005
3.68 | 61 ratings
13 Blues for Thirteen Moons
2008
3.62 | 32 ratings
Kollaps Tradixionales
2010
4.01 | 34 ratings
Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
2014

A SILVER MT. ZION Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

A SILVER MT. ZION Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

A SILVER MT. ZION Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

A SILVER MT. ZION Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.26 | 21 ratings
The Pretty Little Lightning Paw E.P.
2004

A SILVER MT. ZION Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.53 | 65 ratings

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Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Efrim Menuck meant for his first release as A SILVER MT ZION to be a one-off tribute to his beloved dog Wanda who passed away while touring as a band member of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, but since it was met with such such positive enthusiasm, he decided to keep releasing new albums as a side project and therefore since this was indeed a new band instead of merely a solo tribute project he expanded the three full time members on the first release and doubled it to six (adding contrabass, cello and extra violins). There also remain three additional session musicians as on the debut with the addition of trumpet and trombone. Menuck also followed the changing-up-the-name game inspired by the great Sun Ra who would change his backing band name every few albums. So on this second release, BORN INTO TROUBLE AS THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD is credited to THEE SILVER MT ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND. Now isn't that a mouthful? Sometimes it begins with THE SILVER etc so i assume the THEE came about as a database issue.

Musically speaking BORN INTO TROUBLE etc continues the same kind of apocalyptic and mournful classical chamber music mixed with post-rock that suited the tribute to Wanda so well. The album contains eight sprawling tracks but none overly long that utilize the typical post-rock playbook and create riffs that build loops which are then accompanied by other instruments joining in until reaching a climax of some sort. For the most part the "rock" part of the equation doesn't play much of a part in the second album like the first as it is primarily built upon slow brooding violins accompanied by the other instruments merely adding disheartening atmospheric moods but on some tracks like "Take These Hands And Throw Them In The RIver," the pace picks up after the lugubrious intro and unlike most of the album has sung vocals (there are some spoken word parts as well). The heavier passages are very similar to the softer ones except that they have a much more frenetic delivery of the repetitive loops of violin riffs with a cacophonous din of accompanying sounds that make it sound more like the Godspeed! project. "C'monCOMEON" is probably the most rock oriented track as it has heavily distorted guitar and the most energetic percussive elements on the entire album.

Overall the music on BORN INTO TROUBLE AS THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD is much more diverse with all the different instrumental parts sounding more like the first Godspeed! album than the first SILVER MT ZION one but still retains a significant amount of the funeral march anthemic styles of the debut. The subject matter is supposedly inspired by the Book Of Job from the Bible with the title also purportedly taken from the scriptures. Menuck successfully found new ways to expand the debut's sound and even though many of these new ideas came directly from his Godspeed! You Black Emperor style, the album sounds completely distinct as it less hypnotic than Godspeed! releases and creates more of a classical chamber rock type of feel with more melodies that at times sound a tad Floydian in a space rock sort of way accompanied with lots of echo guitars. Add the heavy outbursts although sparse and the weird electronic atmospherics and voila! a satisfying near hour experience of musical bliss. No sophomore slump on this one. In fact i actually prefer listening to this second offering for it has a grander scope of moods and emotional explorations than the extremely misery focused vibe of the first.

 Kollaps Tradixionales by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.62 | 32 ratings

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Kollaps Tradixionales
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Walkscore

4 stars Takes Longer but Grows on You.

I just submitted my review of their most recent album when I noticed this album gets weaker reviews than most of their other albums. In a way I can understand - this one takes longer for its merits to become clear and it is less likely to grab reviewers on first listen. However, after having listened to this album for six years now, I think this is up there with their best albums. Probably the reason for the lower scores is Efrim's singing is a bit more tortured than usual on this one, and his singing is right up from on the long opening piece "There is a Light". I have to admit not being as keen on this song when I first heard it, but it has really grown on me, and is today one of my favourite songs of theirs. There is a very similar feel to the long closer, "Piphany Rambler", which has Efrim singing (rambling indeed) all over this, with much of the same feel as "There is a Light". This one probably takes even longer to warm up to, but again, after first being a bit turned off by it, I (now) really like it. In the middle are some more great pieces. "I Built Myself a Metal Bird" is distorted hard-driving progressive punk (in fact, the tune is in 7/8 time!), but what I find particularly great about the middle part of this album is that the band is here improvising at length. "I Fed my Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds" is the improvised extension of the first Metal Bird track. Similarly the two Kollaps Tradixionales pieces include improvisation, and so while these are (for me) the weaker tracks on the album, they are still quite good and indeed essential to the listening experience of the album. I like this album a lot more than 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, which is less well put together and less musical over all. I also like it better than Horses in the Sky, which has some great songs but for me is uneven. Similar to their most recent album (which I just reviewed), I find Kollaps to be consistently good all the way through.

Some albums are easy to 'get' on first or second listen. Some albums rise quickly at first, but then fall just as quickly after a few listens. This one started lower but kept rising, and only started to plateau after around 20 listens. Even though it is fairly long, I now always listen to this one all the way through - once it is on, I am drawn to hear it out. While most listeners will probably prefer their most recent album over this one on first listen (so, you should get that one first), I actually rate this one a tiny bit higher (after many years). How much you eventually like the album will depend on how much the opening and closing tracks grow on you. But I think it is well worth the time-effort. I give this 8.7 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which also translates to high 4 PA stars.

 Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.01 | 34 ratings

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Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Walkscore

4 stars Real, Heartfelt Music.

The most recent full album (2014) from A Silver Mt. Zion is excellent through-and-through. I love this band (and their cousins/alter-ego but larger Godspeed You Black Emperor-GYBE) for the integrity they bring to the act of making music. They make music they want to play, and say what they want to say, for its own sake damn the consequences. They also write out of passion and gut feeling, rather than (say) logic or aspiration, so the music is full of raw emotion and is personal. As a result, their music comes across as heartfelt, feeling, and authentic. When I listen to this, I am always reminded of a Roger Waters quip (from the Pompeii video) where he says that the only thing that matters in music (or any art) is whether it moves you. SMZ is moving and thought-provoking. While a number of commentators don't like Efrim's singing, I think it fits perfectly, and just adds to authenticity of their statement. The singing would in fact be considered poor judged against the criteria set out by vocal coaches and music schools - it is frequently out of tune, he can't reach some of the high notes he is trying to reach, his voice often cracks, etc - but to me this is beside the point. The point of this band is to be real, warts and all, and thus implicitly to challenge paradigms and stereotypes of what the experts might say music should be. But even disregarding this, I actually think the singing is very musical. Few would ever say Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix are good singers, but their vocals are perfect for the songs they sing, with a lot of unique character and instant recognizability, and they add to the music they accompany rather than take away from it. The same applies to Efrim's vocals, which add a personal element to the music that raises it even higher and makes me want to listen to it.

This album continues in the same mode as their previous album (Kollaps Tradixionales), in mixing a harder rockingier approach with progressive acoustic and ethereal soundscapes, generally in the service of longer but well-structured vocal-based tunes. The album begins with a hard-guitar driving punky piece that shifts part-way through into a longer statement which sets the musical and political tone for the album. There is a great shorter tune ("Take Away These Early Grave Blues") as well as two innovative and evocative short pieces ("Little Ones Run" and and "Rains Thru the Rooft"). However, the real gems here are the two longest pieces. The 14-minute "Austerity Blues" is a fantastic piece that begins on acoustic with Efrim's unique voice up high, then morphs into a truly original and musical political statement about the idea of (government, economic) austerity. It's counterpart is "What We Loved Was Not Enough", a beautiful dirty lament from the heart. Both of these are among SMZ's best compositions, and are the primary reason I keep wanting to put on this album. They have entered my list of essential music. But in fact the entire set flows very well and there is not a bad tune on the album. Silver Mt Zion is making exciting and original music that deserves to be listened to. They are my favourite still-touring Canadian band. On balance, I give this album 8.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is at the high end of 4 PA stars.

 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.68 | 61 ratings

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13 Blues for Thirteen Moons
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Rough, Ragged, but a Beautiful Closing Track.

Silver Mt Zion (SMZ) once again change direction with 13 Blues. Mostly jettisoning the more structured folky approach of 'Horses in the Sky', here they go for the jugular, opening with a full-on onslaught of sonic and lyrical heaviness. If on 'Horses' it seemed the band wanted everyone to hug ('Hold on to each other'), here they are in a more rough and tumble mood, probably the most rough of all of their albums. Perhaps they thought 'Horses' sounded too safe, or something, or perhaps they found themselves angered and discouraged. At the very least, such tension can be creatively productive, although on this album I am not sure it is channelled as well as it could have been on every track. Hence the roughness. The opener, '1,000,000 died to make this sound' is the most rough. Like a school teacher trying to get the class'es attention by dropping a garbage can or chair in the middle of the room, it opens with loud intermittent (drum) bangs, which then morph into a tortured slow, but loud and grungy, guitar-based theme full of distortion. The lyrics sound like a cry for help. It gets your attention - it MAKES you pay attention - although I don't find this first piece (all 14 minutes of it) very musical. The two middle pieces improve on this one. Although still ragged, they don't seem as drenched in anger, and are able to conjure up some evocative imagery and landscapes. The third track, ('Black Waters Bowed/Engine Broke Blues') is the better of these. Indeed, while 'Horses' began with its best tune (with the musical quality mostly decreasing with each subsequent tune), '13 Blues' gets better with each subsequent song. And the closing track, 'Blind Blind Blind', is excellent. Still very ragged and tortured, here this is really well channelled into the music and lyrics so the audience really feels it. Softer, and soulful, but hurt, it ends with a rousing repeated sing-along chorus whose melody sticks in your head. Very emotional and musical. On the whole, I find this album harder to take that any other SMZ album, although with the brilliant closing track it is better than 'Born into Trouble' (which really has no stand-out tracks). I give this one 6.7 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 Horses In The Sky by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.87 | 73 ratings

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Horses In The Sky
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Critical Anti-War Folk-Tinged Post-Rock.

Silver Mt Zion (SMZ) have always been political, as have Godspeed You Black Emperor. However, while previous SMZ albums drew more on ethereal, classical and avant-garde musical styles, here they veer in the direction of a more traditional American (in both senses, i.e. both continental and US) anti-war folk styles. The pieces are more structured, and use more traditional chord changes, and indeed, evoke (if just a touch) the ghosts of Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs in terms of their use of clever lyrical phrases and repeated sing-along choruses. The opening piece here, 'God Bless Our Dead Marines', is simply amazing, and the best on the album (and among the very best ever SMZ songs). It has a very clear three-part structure musically, while the lyrics provide some of the most direct and hard-hitting anti-war criticism of SMZ's entire catalogue. Here, Efrim has written lyrics that do the job of the various radio spots, street chatter and sound effects found on early Godspeed albums, and they do it very well. Killer track (literally). The song lasts almost 12 minutes, but the live version (you can find them on youtube) lasts upwards of 17 minutes. Really excellent music and lyrics, if perhaps necessarily US-centric (Canada, the home of SMZ, does not have a marine corps). The rest of the album doesn't quite live up to this fantastic opener though. The next strongest tunes follow right after the opener. The title track, 'Horses in the Sky', is to my mind the second-best track on the album, again (for me) harkening back to some of the classic American anti-war folk troubadours, and 'Mountains Made of Steam' is the third-best track. These are, after many years of listens now, usually the only ones I listen to, as the last three songs are just not as musical. 'Hang on to each other' is similar in style and format to 'Horses', but not quite as clever or emotive, so it feels a bit whiney, as does 'Ring them bells'. However, I think it is wonderful that SMZ took it upon themselves to stretch out beyond their usual comfort zone into more a folky vernacular, as the exercise produced three really great songs. Especially, 'God Bless Our Dead Marines' remains for me among the top five songs ever written by Efrim and SMZ/GYBE - it sends chills up my spine every time I listen to it. Given the whole album is mixed, I give this 7.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 The Pretty Little Lightning Paw  E.P. by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2004
3.26 | 21 ratings

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The Pretty Little Lightning Paw E.P.
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Microphones in the Trees!

An excellent release from Silver Mt Zion, this EP contains four great tracks that do a good job at encapsulating their sound in the mid-2000s. Like their first album, this one contains no drummer, but instead uses repeated percussion sounds and quiet drum machines selectively in their place on some of the tracks. The title track is one of the more notable pieces, both here and of their repertoire in general. But it is "Microphones in the Trees" that is the real stand-out track. Built around a 5/4 bass/cello line that modulates between four chords in repeated pattern, it starts quiet and builds to a climax backed by pointed political lyrics and eery rising/sawing violins. The melody is highly memorable and the song will stick with you. Check out this EP version, and then check out the amazing 2008 live version from Lees Palace in Toronto (available on youtube). Just amazing. The other two tunes on this release are good, but not quite essential, making the overall rating of this one 7.7 out of 10, which is just shy of 4 PA stars. So, high 3 PA stars.

 This Is Our Punk-Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.11 | 41 ratings

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This Is Our Punk-Rock, Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Walkscore

5 stars The Best SMZ Album!

This is not only their most progressive, but most musical and most emotional album. I am shocked by the lower scores for this here. This sees the band writing extended epics - one on each side of the double vinyl album - and in turn developing their musical ideas over longer overlapping themes with quieter, sensitive violin and guitar compositions, while still remaining true to their post-apocalyptic post-punk ethos. Each of the four pieces on this album is unique and distinct - not only from each other, but from the rest of their catalogue. Side 1 ("So Some Lonesome Corners So Many Flowers Bloom") features a rag-tag improvised choir and a slow-building crescendo that is very musical despite representing an almost free experiment. The song is very hypnotic and beautiful, almost in a Floydian way (indeed, sections of this piece actually remind me of (though very different from) Atom Heart Mother). Side 2 ("Babylon Was Built On Fire/Starsnostars") is to my mind SMZ's most musical song (not only on this album, but their entire catalogue). It begins with some amazing soundscapes, slowly introducing the main themes. The vocals are here are very effective, slowly building until each of the song's different themes are all being sung at once by different singers, bouncing off each other in a beautiful rag-tag counterpoint of overlapping melodies. Awesome music! Side 3 ("American Motor Over Smoldered Field") is another of SMZ's most musical songs ever. Containing some rare but beautiful (in a post-apocalyptic way!) vocal harmonies, the song remains subdued for the first 4.5 minutes, but then the drums and bass/cello/guitar pulses kick in. Check out the section that begins just before the 9 min mark which then continues to the end with the 'choir' singing the lyrical theme. So innovative yet deeply musical and emotional music. Side 4 ("Goodbye Desolate Railyard"), characterized by acoustic guitar finger-picking in a major key overlaid with piano and sunrise-violin lines, has a very American feel to it. Very happy-sad melancholy, shifting into musique concrette with thunderstorm and railway soundscapes, and then back to the main theme on acoustic guitar with the key lyric then repeated by the band. While I find the other three sides to be even stronger, this is a great closer for this great, original album. Of course, you have to like Efrim's/the bands' tortured, out of key singing, and this one will take a few listens before the underlying musicality emerges (you are probably not likely to get it on first listen). But this is definitely worth the effort. For me, this is the second-best album out of the entire GYBE/SMZ catalogue, after "Lift Yer Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven". I give this 9.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 5 PA stars. One of the most original, authentic, innovative, musical and moving albums.

 Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.53 | 65 ratings

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Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Walkscore

2 stars The Weakest SMZ album.

This album breaks with the very quiet and sombre mood of the first Silver Mt Zion (SMZ) album, and instead adds drums and electric guitars/distortion. It is the weakest SMZ album in my opinion. It actually seems rushed, and the last few tracks are quite poorly recorded (to the point of the whole track distorting), which may have been purposeful but it is not musical. The quite sections here are also not on the same level of musicality as the first album. The slow sections do not hang there, dripping with emotion, like the slower tunes on the first (and later) albums, but instead they drag. And while I really love the SMZ lyrics most of the time, this is the one album where I find them a bit wanting. Not sure what happened. But thankfully, this was only a temporary set-back, and their next album ("This is Our Punk Rock") is really fabulous. I give this album 4.2 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 2 PA stars.

 He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Rooms by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.96 | 95 ratings

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He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Rooms
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Walkscore

4 stars Lovely, Sombre, Quiet.

This is the Silver Mt Zion album that sounds closest to Godspeed, even though here there are only three players most of the time. The pieces are slow, long, and melancholy. This is the album where Efrim decides to sing, although in reality he only sings a small minority of the time. His vocals, as noted by many, are an acquired taste and not everyone will be able to listen to them, but I really like them. They come across as totally authentic and heart felt. Much of this music is quite beautiful, if still sad and post-apocalyptic (ala Godspeed). My favourite track on this album, and a completely unique track in the history of music, is "13 Angels Standing Guard 'Round The Side Of Your Bed". It is so beautiful and magical, despite being musique-concrete of sorts. I am always amazed they could get such a wondrous sound whenever I listen to this piece. I give this album 8.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is just enough for 4 PA stars.

 Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards by SILVER MT. ZION, A album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.53 | 65 ratings

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Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards
A Silver Mt. Zion Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upwards is overall a good post-rock release that fits within many conventions of the genre: slow, melancholic music that features a diverse instrumentation that builds and builds to noisy, abstract, and challenging crescendos. As a casual fan of the genre, there's a handful of interesting songs to enjoy, but not enough to make it memorable. It's highlights are when the players create a gentle rise and fall of lush strings that give the impression of one gently bobbing on ocean swells or walking amid fields of grain. At its best the album is relaxing and subtle. It's the more experimental parts that don't resonate with me. Some tracks have voice overs or singing that sounds frail and incomplete; others use shrill tones to induce tension or a sense of confusion, which aren't supported enough emotionally by the quite parts that precede. The songs don't strike me as being especially interesting or complex; however, the group's playing is solid and subtle. I especially enjoyed the acoustic bass work and warm, rich guitar vibrato heard on some songs.

That's not to say that these criticisms make Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upwards a bad album, just not one that resonates with me. It may appeal to fans more interested in this minimalist and moody genre, but not for casual fans.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Thanks to useful_idiot for the artist addition. and to T.Rox for the last updates

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