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He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes

1 rating: 5.0
An album by Silver Mount Zion

Band is Comprised of Members of Godspeed You Black Emperor.

Tags: Music
1 review about He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light...

I wish I'd had this when my cat died.

  • Jan 24, 2003
Yep, the title is a mouthful. Even the abbreviation HHLUABSOLSGTCOOR is a monster...

The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band would probably be called a side-project of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. Down from a nine-piece rock orchestra to just three people, GYBE!'s lavish soundscapes are stripped down to the mere basics of piano, violin, and contrabass. Even with the occasional addition of some guitar, drumming, vocals (yes, vocals), radio samples, and clarinet, A Silver Mt. Zion relegates its music to sparse, oppressively sad passages that bleed silent anguish. Compared to the ominous symphonies of GYBE! (whom you probably like if you're checking this out), this music is less foreboding and dark. Instead, it is just sad, like a weight on the soul. Depressing music is often the most beautiful to me, because it functions as an emotional release. This album is beautiful, but it is a distressed beauty that is difficult to listen to sometimes. And what's it all about? The album is an aching dirge for a dead dog named Wanda.

So, you get 47-minutes of long, dreary motivic passages dedicated a dead pet. A tough sell to most people, certainly, and I don't doubt that it in the hands of lesser writing talent something like this would be quite awful. But it is far from any such denigrating adjective. I rank this up with some of the most beautiful music I have.

"Broken chords can sing a little" opens the album with simple and unsettling piano chords and a subtle electronic hum. A crying violin glides into the atmosphere as two strange vocal samples appear in stereo. This sets the tone for the album -- barren, sheer requiems based mostly on piano and violin with some odd tape effects appearing in the background (the whale-like mantra appearing between slow swipes of violin on "For Wanda" makes me shake). "Sit in the middle of three galloping dogs" is slightly more robust, arranging jarring violin strikes against marching drums in a way both disconcerting and weeping. "Movie (never made)" has Efrim actually singing, his voice breaking apart over a simple piano melody, and the band sounds like they are playing in some abandoned cathedral. "13 angels standing guard 'round the side of your bed" is a teary mist of sorrow, pure heart-crushing sadness with sonics that can only be described as profound. The interesting thing is that it doesn't sound like the music is trying to make anyone sad -- it is just unqualified expression.

I wouldn't listen to this if I was ever close to suicide, but for those times when you want something gorgeously melancholy, I can't think of anything better.

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He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes
Label: Constellation
Release Date: April 3, 2000

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