Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra is a Canadian band which formed in 1999, originating from Montreal, Quebec. Variations of the name used on the band's releases include A Silver Mt. Zion, The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir and Thee Silver Mountain Reveries); the group use the shorthand SMZ and their name is most often simplified to Silver Mt. Zion. The group has undergone almost yearly personnel changes, evolving by stages from a mostly instrumental trio at the time of their first recordings into an eight-piece group, and then in 2008 into a strongly vocal quintet.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band in April 2007
Background information
Also known asA Silver Mt. Zion
Thee Silver Mountain Reveries
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir
OriginMontreal, Quebec, Canada
GenresExperimental rock, post-rock, art rock
Years active1999–present
Associated actsGodspeed You! Black Emperor, Sackville, Vic Chesnutt, Black Ox Orkestar, Broken Social Scene, Set Fire to Flames
MembersEfrim Menuck
Thierry Amar
Sophie Trudeau
Jessica Moss
David Payant
Past membersScott Levine Gilmore
Ian Ilavsky
Beckie Foon
Eric Craven

Silver Mt. Zion's music has been described as "post-rock";[1] Singer and guitarist Efrim Menuck identifies with the punk rock ethos and aesthetic.[2] The band has released seven studio albums and one EP, publishing them through the record label Constellation.


Origins (1999–2000)

Silver Mt. Zion began as a framework for Efrim Menuck, a guitarist in Montreal-based musical collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor, to develop his knowledge of music theory and music scoring,[3] and to work on musical ideas which didn't fit into the format of his band. Menuck enlisted violinist Sophie Trudeau and bassist Thierry Amar, who were also involved with Godspeed You! Black Emperor.[4] The band made their live debut on March 6, 1999 at Musique Fragile, a performance venue organized by the record label Constellation. They released their debut album, He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms..., a little over a year later on March 27, 2000.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor rarely features vocals, relying instead on audio samples; similarly themed samples appear on Silver Mt. Zion's debut album. Menuck does sing on two tracks - "Movie (Never Made)" and "Blown-out Joy from Heaven's Mercied Hole".

Expanding membership (2000–2004)

Before the release of their second album, the band recruited three more musicians, expanding the group to a sextet. The new members were cellist Beckie Foon, guitarist Ian Ilavsky, and violinist Jessica Moss.[5] The name of the band was changed to reflect the larger membership; they were officially called The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band.

While some tracks on Born into Trouble […] reflect the building but repetitive and instrumental nature of their first album, some tracks are more song-like in structure and rely more on vocals. On "Take These Hands and Throw Them in the River", the vocal parts finish with a building wall of noise dynamic while "Could've Moved Mountains" features double-tracked vocals that the listener has to strain to hear.

In early 2001 the band set out on an extensive tour of Europe. During their 5-hours flight to Europe the band members wrote “The triumph of our tired eyes”. Soon after their return, the song "The born into trouble as the sparks fly upwards” was written.

With the same lineup, but with the name of the band slightly expanded to reflect the change in sound and membership, The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band with Choir released "This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing in 2003. The album featured four tracks each lasting over ten minutes in length and had more singing as well as bigger emphasis on drums in two of the tracks. Thee Rusted Satellite Choir features twenty-four names. The album appeared on the !earshot National Top 50 Chart in September, 2003.[6]

After a break due to Godspeed You! Black Emperor activities, the band set out on a brief Canadian tour at end of January 2004; they then travelled to Europe, where they toured from mid-February through the end of March. That winter Scott Levine Gilmore from Black ox orkestar joined the band and they began performing in a semi-circle on the stage. Following their performance at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, they headed across the Atlantic again in December for a tour of the UK,

The line-up was expanded again to include Gilmore, a mandolinist and guitarist. The choir dropped, the band now added an extra 'e' to the first word of their full title becoming Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band for the release of their fourth full-length record. Horses in the Sky (2005) has six tracks, all with vocals. Following a short tour of eastern Canada, in August that year the band performed for the first time in the United States in Brooklyn, New York City. Plans for a longer tour were cut short after Trudeau, one of two violinists for the band, broke her collarbone. In that time, Gilmore left the band and was replaced by former Hangedup drummer Eric Craven.

13 Blues for Thirteen Moons (2006–2008)

In 2006, the band headed to Europe at the end of April and they played shows up until the start of June. A tour of Canada and the United States (Silver Mt. Zion's first) began in late July and continued until the end of August. The tour debuted two new songs, "BlindBlindBlind" and "1,000,000 Died to Make This Sound". In a follow-up 2007 tour of Europe, they premiered another two new songs, "Engine Broke" and the title song of their album, which was released in March 2008 and contains all four tracks. The album also contains 12 short tracks of drone and feedback which feed into each other to create a fifth piece on the album, acting as a prologue to the album-proper, which, appropriate to its name begins on track 13.

Silver Mt. Zion then toured first Europe and then North America, premiering two new songs, "I Built Myself a Metal Bird, I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds" and "There's a Light". In the summer of 2008, the band's lineup changed again as Eric Craven, Rebecca Foon and Ian Ilavsky resigned. After their leaving the band lost the words "tra-la-la band" from its name. At that time David Payant joined to fill the role as drummer and the band officially renamed themselves Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. In September that year the new lineup played at the New York ATP Festival.

Vic Chesnutt collaboration and Kollaps Tradixionales (2009–present)

The members of Thee Silver Mt. Zion contributed to two works by Vic Chesnutt: the 2007 album North Star Deserter and the 2009 album At the Cut. Both were released by Constellation Records. In the spring of 2009, the band began working on recording material for their album, Kollaps Tradixionales, which was released in February 2010. The album contained the two new songs from the previous tour, some songs written when they were "tra-la-la band", and some new compositions. The band began a tour of the UK and Europe in March 2010, beginning with a positively reviewed[7] sold-out show in Bristol. They performed at the ATP I'll Be Your Mirror festival in October 2011 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The setlist included a new composition entitled "What We Loved was Not Enough".[8]

Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything (2014)

A new album from the band was released in January, 2014. It was shorter than most of their previous ones, and was recorded at Valcourt Studio.[9]

In an interview with Vish Khanna on his Kreative Kontrol podcast, Menuck reported plans to release a Record Store Day 12" and an EP later in the year, both of which the band had just finished recording.[10]


Music, lyrics and themes

While Menuck writes most of the words sung or spoken in the band's pieces, other band members also contribute. There are strong political motifs in the band's music, covering a variety of subjects from anarchy to war and freedom. 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, released in March 2008, was the first album to contain lyric sheets in its insert.[11] Menuck's strident guitar work combines with strings, tape loops, and heavy drums to give the band its sound.[12]



The band's original name, A Silver Mt. Zion, rather than a reference to the Mount Zion in Jerusalem, developed from a misheard song lyric.[13] Menuck himself is Jewish, and motifs relating to Judaism are occasionally present in the band's music (he described the band's recording of their first album as a "Jewish experience"[3]).

All of the band's names have revolved around the words "Silver Mt. Zion", except "Thee Silver Mountain Reveries" for the 2004 EP.

Imagery and packaging

As with most Constellation releases, Silver Mt. Zion records come in recycled cardboard cases with detailed artwork, do not feature the band's name on the album cover (the band's name at any particular time can be found on the spine of each album) and no copyright details on the disc. 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons was the first album case to feature a photo of the band inside (along with the lyric sheets).

Birds tend to feature heavily in the artwork, often in detailed pictures. Album artwork has also included a sketch of a horse, a mountainscape from the back of a packet of cigarettes and a picture of Nina Simone (in relation to the song "God Bless Our Dead Marines").

Band dynamics

Menuck is often identified as the band's frontman and leader, despite the fact that he has repeatedly stated that this is not the case. Though Menuck's voice and lyrics are often prominent on the records, everyone in the band sings on stage, contributing to the harmonies while standing in a semicircle, with members facing each other as often as the audience.

The band's dynamic has gone through changes with additions and replacements in the line-up. Trudeau's breaking her collarbone in a motorbike accident prevented them from touring, leading the band to spend time working more singing into their pieces.[2] Drummer Scott Levine Gilmore's replacement, Eric Craven, contributed a louder and more lively feel; Craven was subsequently replaced by drummer David Payant.

Menuck, speaking for the band in interview, has said "[they all] believe in music as labour".[14]


Current members

Former members





  • 2004: Song of the Silent Land (Constellation Records compilation)
    • One original track as Silver Mt. Zion: "Iron Bridge to Thunder Bay"

See also


  1. Khanna, Vish."A Silver Mt. Zion Shine a Light" Archived July 8, 2012, at, Exclaim!, March 2010.
  2. A Silver Mt Zion: Park Plaza Hotel, London, February 8 2008 (Peter Guy: Getintothis) Archived April 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. A Silver Mt. Zion (2001). "A Silver Mt. Zion at VPRO Studio (2001-01-26)". Live Music Archive. Internet Archive. Retrieved December 12, 2006.
  4. " Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything". Pitchfork, by Stuart Berman, January 21 2014
  5. "Jessica Moss Entanglement". Drowned in Sound, William Lewis October 31st, 2018
  6. "The National Top 50 For the Week Ending: Tuesday, September 16, 2003". !earshot.
  7. "Live Review: Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra". The-Fly.Co.Uk. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  8. "ATP America presents I'll Be Your Mirror curated by Portishead & ATP - All Tomorrow's Parties". All Tomorrow's Parties. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  9. "Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra: the complete interview". Jordan Zivitz, Montreal Gazette , June 18, 2015
  10. "Ep. #62: Efrim Menuck of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra + Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Kreative Kontrol". Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  11. "Q&A with Efrim Menuck of A Silver Mt. Zion/Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Interview by Aaron Richter at Self-Titled Mag". Retrieved April 10, 2008.
  12. "The man behind Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s curtain steps out alone". The Chicago Reader, August 09, 2018, By Bill Meyer
  13. A Silver Mt. Zion and David Garland (2005). "Spinning on Air: The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band (2005-11-06)". Spinning on Air. WNYC Radio. Archived from the original on April 23, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2006.
  14. Dobson, Gareth (March 13, 2008). "Features - Rockets fall on rockist fools: Efrim Menuck embraces modernity". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
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