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A Silver Mount Zion – Live Review

Post-rock legends perform some new material, as reliably brilliant as their other unique work

Written by Emma Tucker

Illustration By Ali Haines

As far as combinations go, medications craft and activism is a particularly thrilling one for me; akin to jeggings (jeans and leggings) coatigans (coat and cardigan) and discovering that Nutella goes really well with dark Ryvita’s (try it). So it was with excitement that I stumbled across the Craftivist Collective. They are a group combining craft and activism and particularly seek to engage people who haven’t previously had much involvement or interest in politics and activism. I was intrigued and decided to attend a meeting. I set out with trepidation as previous experience dictates that political activism meetings can sometimes be awkward, malady occasionally frightening, probably attended by bonkers people or all of the above. But my fears were quickly allayed. The group meets every third Thursday of the month in the Royal Festival hall cafe to plan events, projects and campaigns. Sarah, the founder of the group welcomed me warmly and I settled easily in to the group discussion, which was focussed on ideas to encourage people to vote in the elections. The group is large and varied; some members are there for the craft and others are there for the activism but the mix is easy and it’s sweetened by tea and cake from the cafe. The Craftivist Collective encourage everyone to get involved, regardless of political awareness or craft ability. So whether you are a sewing and politics aficionado, or you don’t know your ballot paper from your by-election or your scissors from your selvedge, everyone is welcome. You might find the craftivists at events like United Underground at the Southbank centre, manning a craft corner and encouraging young people to think about the impact of conflict around the world by making speech bubble badges with provocative slogans about conflict. Or you might see them setting up a public wish tree dedicated to the Sudanese people with messages written on biodegradable paper. (see photos here) Or, if you’re quick, you might catch them hanging cross stitched banners outside Topshop highlighting the inequality in the fashion industry supply chain. They have also recently attended an Oxfam event where people were invited to decorate plant pots on the theme of ‘Beautiful Environment’, a little reminder to encourage the owner to look after the world and the growing things within it. Participants could then choose to take their plants home, give it to a friend or leave it somewhere for a passer by to take. The Craftivists have also just been involved in their first exhibition at Ink-d in Brighton. Sarah doesn’t claim that Craftivism will change the world, or cause a major revolution in politics; the group remains refreshingly grounded. She told me her aim is to plant seeds in people and encourage them to form their own views on injustice. She told me she also wants to prove that anyone can get involved with activism and it doesn’t have to be stressful, violent or elitist. The group targets the non-typical activist and aims to create events that promote issues in a non-violent, non-threatening way. I don’t know about you, but I am willing to roll up my sleeves and flex my less than perfect crochet and embroidery muscles to give it a go. If your interest is piqued, you can check them out for yourself this coming bank holiday Monday. Sketchbook, the fashion illustration magazine, is hosting a pop up shop near Carnaby street between March 31-April 18 2010. On the 8th April between 12-1pm the craftivists will also be running a workshop on the theme of ethical fashion. The workshop is focussed on the work of the War on Want campaign campaign. Join them if you like the idea of cross stitching and sewing mini protest banners, which may find a temporary home to put up around Oxford street. Some craftivist banner kits and postcards will also be sold in the shop too.
Illustrations by Harry Williams

Awhile ago, website post-rock had a kind of heyday. There were the obvious big players of post-rock – Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, and then there was A Silver Mount Zion, who are actually a kind of offshoot of Godspeed. It seemed like for a part of my life all I listened to was post-rock. Explosions in the Sky even ‘made it big’ when they provided the soundtrack to the film Friday Night Lights.

Nowadays, however, Godspeed have sounded the death knell with the announcement of an ‘indefinite hiatus’, and there hasn’t been much heard of late from either Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai (although it’s worth pointing out that Mogwai performed at Field Day last year, and it was testament to their status that people battled through the dark and drizzle for their entire set).

But let’s not go too far mourning the death of post-rock, because A Silver Mount Zion are still preaching the gospel, even if it is a slightly modified one. It sounds more and more that A Silver Mount Zion are moving away from their earlier, more stereotypical post-rock sound, and this is most notable with their latest album’s use of vocals. A Silver Mt Zion shouldn’t just be thought of as another post-rock act. They’re political, they’re comical, they play violins, they play double bass, they sing, and most importantly they have substance. On top of all this they have the best titles for their work – for example their first album and its unwieldly title (He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms…).

Much of the show was newer material, although they opened with ‘I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds’ from their most recent album. In total they only played five or six songs, although each song was a good 7 minute piece. I’m even reluctant to refer to them as songs, when really they seem more like compositions. There’s no standard verse and chorus, and each piece had a constantly shifting ebb and flow. One thing’s for certain – they were never boring.

On stage, the band emanates a feeling of pleasant unity, never more especially so than when all members of the band blend their instruments and their voices into a whole. Although there’s a lot going on, you can still clearly hear and appreciate the individual contributions. Efrim might be a reluctant leader, but he still leads, and manages to do so without overpowering the others.

The only criticism I have of them was the excessive band-to-audience banter. After a while it got old – it was clear most of the people there just wanted to hear the music.

A Silver Mt Zion’s support also deserves an honourable mention, even if for the sole reason of sharing a surname with me. Alexander Tucker is a lone man with a violin, and a lot of loops. I imagine you’re leaping to Owen Pallett right now, but where Pallett is twee, Tucker is all seriousness. With furrowed brow (which, coincidentally, is also the name of his album) he poured his heart out into both the violin and the two microphones for a series of lengthy songs that never really seemed to go anywhere. I spent his entire set veering wildly between thinking I was starting to like his sound, and wishing he’d get on with something definite. The looping violin and contrived noises all sounded a bit too much like a lengthy tune up, and frequently made me feel impatient.


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