Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La-Band

Antiwar songs by Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La-Band
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Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La-Bandda

The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La-Band formed in December 2000, when the original three members of A Silver Mt. Zion (Efrim: guitar, piano, vocals; Thierry: contrebasse; Sophie: violin) asked three additional players to join (Beckie: cello; Ian: guitar; Jessica: violin). This line-up, juxtaposing a string quartet with 2 electric guitars, continues to this day. A seventh member was added in 2003 (Scott: drums, guitar, mandolin, etc.). The debut performance by A Silver Mt. Zion took place at the Constellation Room in spring 1999, as part of the Musique Fragile concert series. This half-hour composition, built around a descending piano line and a field recording spliced on a reel-to-reel tape deck, went on to form the template for the band's debut record, He Has Left Us Alone, But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Rooms (cst009). Expanding to six musicians at the end of 2000 (and lengthening the band name accordingly), the group worked on new arrangements of material from the debut and began writing new songs, then toured Europe in early 2001. The first album written by the larger band, "Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward." (cst018), was recorded over a couple of weekends immediately after the tour. The first two SMZ releases feature largely instrumental work, a punk-rock chamber music of sorts that evolved out of the three founding musicians' desire to compose in a setting more intimate than their other band, the sprawling nine-piece godspeed you! black emperor. Both records were released to broad critical acclaim, and while these albums include the earliest examples of lead vocal and lyrics by Efrim, it was in 2002, as godspeed's recording and touring schedule wound down, that SMZ began working in earnest on a decidedly more lyric-guided approach to songwriting and a more articulate attempt to harness the protest song traditions of folk, punk and avant rock.

The band has been writing, recording and touring regularly for the last two years and has recorded two double albums of vocal-driven material, "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing (cst027) and Horses In The Sky (cst033). Efrim also recorded some song sketches in the fall of 2003 that turned into Thee Silver Mountain Reveries EP (cst030) originally available exclusively in concert during the band's spring 2004 European tour, then given a wider release in the summer of that year. All iterations of the Silver Mt. Zion band have been recorded at Montreal's Hotel2Tango (a recording studio built by Efrim and Thierry, along with engineer Howard Bilerman) and released by Constellation. Efrim is a founding member of godspeed you! black emperor and has been involved in many other projects via the Hotel2Tango loft space, which evolved from a ramshackle rehearsal hall in the mid-90s to an accessible 24-track analogue studio by the turn of the decade. He has recorded and/or played on records by Frankie Sparo, Hangedup, Hannah Marcus, Elizabeth Anka Vajagic and Phonemes, among others, and is chiefly responsible for the album artwork that accompanies all the albums by gy!be and SMZ. He has played in a Glenn Branca guitar orchestra performance, in an improv concert with members of Acid Mothers Temple, and has written for Fish Piss magazine. Silver Mt. Zion is his central song-writing vehicle, for which he writes all of the lyrics. Thierry has played electric bass in gy!be 1996, and began playing contrebasse a year later, initially in SMZ and Molasses. He has pursued acoustic bass as his central instrument ever since, playing in countless improv and free-jazz formations around Montreal, and on many albums recorded at the Hotel2Tango (where he is a partner and engineer). He has recorded albums by Fly Pan Am, Crackpot, and free music ensemble Balai Mechanique (in which he also plays), among others. He is also a founding member of klezmer-inspired quartet Black Ox Orkestar.

Sophie has played violin in gy!be and SMZ since 1998 and Set Fire To Flames since 2000. She has contributed to innumerable records by other bands and is a highly active player in the local Montreal scene. Most recently, she has played and toured with Valley Of The Giants, contributed to recordings by Hrsta and Kiss Me Deadly, and founded her own label, Bangor Records, whose first release will be by The Mile End Ladies' String Auxiliary (in which she also plays). She wields electric bass in the noise-rock duo Diebold with fellow SMZ member Ian. Beckie has played cello in SMZ since 2000 and features as a member and/or contributor to a long list of other Montreal-based bands and projects, including Set Fire To Flames, Blackout and Elizabeth Anka Vajagic. She collaborates regularly with the local modern dance community and is a co-founder of the cello and percussion duo Esmerine. She also organises conferences for the Canadian Environmental Network. Ian has played guitar in SMZ since 2000, prior to which he was the guitarist for postpunk bands Sofa (1992-1997) and Sackville (1995-1999). He has contributed guitar, bass, drums and/or programming and computer arrangements to recordings by Hangedup, Frankie Sparo and Priya Thomas, among others. He recorded the debut record by Fly Pan Am and is co-founder of Constellation Records, as well as co-curator of the Musique Fragile concert series that ran in Montreal from 1997-1999 and gave many of the city's current experimental and improv players one of the first accessible, artist-friendly venues for performance. He currently makes computer-assisted music in Re: and bangs the drums in Diebold.

Jessica has played violin in SMZ since 2000, prior to which she played in various Montreal bands, toured with The Geraldine Fibbers, and was production co-ordinator for local film collective Automatic Vaudeville, to which she also contributed music and acting. Her violin work has graced many records, including Frankie Sparo and Hannah Marcus, and she plays regularly in local Arabic and Balkan music ensembles. She is a founding member of Black Ox Orkestar. She also makes lightboxes, metal flowers and figurines, wristbands, and other lovely objects. Scott has played drums, guitar, mandolin and cymbalom in SMZ since 2003. He played with various punk bands in Baltimore before moving to Montreal in 2000, where he completed school and co-founded the political puppet theatre troupe Petit Theatre de L'Absolu, which has toured France, Spain, the USA and Palestine. He is a founding member of Black Ox Orkestar, in which he plays mandolin, cymbalom and violin, and for which he sings and writes lyrics in Yiddish.