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The West Will Rise Again – Thank You Efrim!

At the end of March, I was chatting to friends about music and A Silver Mt. Zion came up, so I thought I’d quickly Google them up. What did I see, but a new EP. A new US/Canada tour exclusive EP. Nightmare. And so I rolled my sleeves up and got emailing.

I started off by emailing Constellation (also home to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think and Tindersticks), A Silver Mt. Zion’s label, who informed me that the band were releasing the EP through Efrim’s just formed label Ruined City Birdsong Combos.

I emailed about 10 websites who had reviewed the record to see if they would be happy to sell the copy they reviewed. All of the websites who got back to me said the same thing – they’d downloaded the vinyl rip that was doing the rounds and used that for their review,

I lastly had a thought and emailed the band themselves through the link on their website and, in just 20 minutes, who should email me back but Efrim himself:

hey there miles,

yes and yes, we have some left.
would be happy to oblige, but payment would have to be through paypal (apologies).
also, would need yr. address for a shipping quote.

thanks,
efrim/mt. zion

How’s that for a score? A few more emails later (plus shipping time) I received a well wrapped 7″.

The first thing any ardent fans will notice (I sure did), is the very familiar scrawl on the envelope. It’s evidently Efrim who does almost all the writing on the SMZ artwork. I found it quite bizarre to see my name and address written like this (complete with crossed i’s and fullstops)!

Unwrapping The West Will Rise Again

Unwrapping The West Will Rise Again

Unwrapping The West Will Rise Again

Unwrapping The West Will Rise Again

Unwrapping The West Will Rise Again

Unwrapping The West Will Rise Again

(Fight The Good Fight by the way – had to look that one up!)

Unwrapping The West Will Rise Again

Unwrapping The West Will Rise Again

I’ve found there are very few images besides the cover on the internet, and with the artwork being such an important part of any SMZ release, I’ve decided I’ll pop some photos and scans up before I go into the music! Enjoy!

The West Will Rise Again front cover

The West Will Rise Again front cover

The West Will Rise Again back cover

The West Will Rise Again back cover

The West Will Rise Again

The West Will Rise Again

To be continued…

 

Music Genres

As you saw, a few weeks ago I listened to You Bred Raptors? I was expecting Post-Rock but received something I wouldn’t describe as post-rock. Looking into them I have seen genres as varying as Alternative and Post-Folk.

So, what’s in a genre?

Has anyone else noticed the number of music genres has exploded in the last 15 years or so? I remember when Rock music could only be split into a few sub-genres, such as indie, metal, rock’n’roll, punk. these days there are some fairly obtuse genres. Technical Death Metal? Rock In Opposition? Crustgrind?

You just need to look at some of the descriptions to know how out of hand it seems to be getting:

Metalcore is a fusion genre that combines extreme metal with hardcore punk, and at the same time draws on groove metal. Like grindcore, metalcore can feature breakdowns as well as intense passages conducive to moshing. In the mid-1990s, some metalcore groups began to take inspiration from developments in grindcore. For example, mathcore groups such as Dillinger Escape PlanSome Girls, and Daughters. These groups also include elements of post-hardcore. By late 2000s, deathcore bands described themselves as grindcore. In addition to metalcore some early screamo groups, like Circle Takes the Square and Orchid, have been associated with grindcore by some commentators.

Yep. That’s a lot of different genres. Are they really needed? I’m undecided.

Sure, it’s great to know exactly what sort of music to keep an eye out for, but I think things are out of hand. I’m a big Post-Rock listener. I love Silver Mt Zion, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

I think Post-Rock is a very undecided genre. While a lot of it is fairly quiet, thoughtful, atmospheric music (think Sigur Rós [who themselves eschew the tag of Post-Rock in favour of Slow Motion Rock] or Explosions in the Sky)

There is also some much heavier stuff (check out Maybeshewill and You Slut!)

And even some that goes well into the realms of electronic music (65daysofstatic and M83).

Should these very different styles come under different genres? Potentially. But something else worth keeping in mind is that a lot of the time multiple genres will be applied to a band. Math Rock is a genre often applied in conjunction with another, and implies the use of unusual and/or changing time signatures. By describing a band as Post-Rock and Math Rock, of the 6 we discussed earlier, we now have closer to 3. We can also split them them by calling some of them Post-Rock and Instrumental.

How else could music be categorised though? Tempo? Instrument set? Country of origin? None of these, even when used in combinations, are going to cut it. Although the current genre system seems a bit vague at times and over-specific at others, I don’t think there is a better alternative short of the well defined nesting of existing genres. More hassle than it’s worth.

There is one other alternative, and it’s one that would never work in a record shop. Crowdsourced data on similar artists. Anyone who knows me well will know that I’m an avid last.fm user (just look down the right hand panel of my blog and you can see the last 10 tracks I’ve listened to of my 83,000+ total). Last.fm tracks all the music that you listen to, and with its 21million (in 2008) users, it has enough data to accurately guess which artists are similar. This isn’t really a filing system and hence would never work physically, but it’s a great system nonetheless. Worth its own post in the future.

So, that’s about it. I guess we’re stuck with what we’ve got. We have to lump music in with a genre which it probably doesn’t fit. The only plus to this is that you’ll just have to listen to more music in trying to find new bands you’ll like!

Have fun with all that listening ahead!

All artists featured in this post are on Spotify:

Silver Mt Zion
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Sigur Rós
Explosions in the Sky
Maybeshewill
You Slut!
65daysofstatic
M83