Some albums are so good, they’re worth buying more than once.
I already have A Silver Mt. Zion‘s debut LP He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corners of Our Rooms (Constellation Records, 2000) on CD. However, a vinyl copy in good condition was recently spotted at a local record store, and since I had left the packaging for this album back at my parents’ house on the other side of the country (along with boxes of other possessions that I’m sure they’ll be happy to be rid of, should I ever return!), I thought it was worth the $8 for another copy in another format. Constellation Records is a label that takes great care in its packaging, and each release is best appreciated in its entirety.
Only recently did I learn that the album was dedicated to the memory of bandleader Efrim’s dog, Wanda, who was dying of cancer while the album was recorded and finally passed away while he was on tour with his other group, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I’m assuming that’s a picture of her on the album insert, above.
The scribbled out mistake, the unmasked blot reprinted intact, reads like the equivalent of the penman getting choked up mid-scrawl. Like it was a hard sentence to write. Like there was so much more that yearned to be expressed in that terse dedication, but the writer started, became reticent, then finished with the tritest phrase that would do its job, unadorned.
Or maybe the dedication was an afterthought. Maybe it was acknowledging the overcast mood that loomed over the album from its very inception. Maybe it has just as much to do with loss and regret as it does with love for a life endowed with meaning, even when you can’t control when fate might strike. As someone who sometimes has to be away from home and from my beloved pack for extended periods of times for international research and conferences, I sympathize with the pain of not always being (t)here. If this was Efrim’s spiritual send-off for a death he could not be physically present for, I can only remark that it was done with true grace and emotion. And the album, which was already so wintery and sobering to begin with, just intensified in gravity.
Here’s the second track, “Sit in the Middle of Three Galloping Dogs”. I love the way it builds and creeps up on you to swallow you whole, so near the pensive beginning of the album. Sublime.
You can sample some other tracks by clicking the album link above to go directly to the Constellation Records website. Tracks 4 and 5, “Movie (Never Made)” and “13 Angels Standing Guard ‘Round the Side of Your Bed” are a powerful one-two gut punch that is broken up by a flip of the record on the vinyl version.
The Bows were completely at peace in the sonic clouds of tracks 7 and 8, paying their own respects, in a way, to someone else’s fallen canine muse.
Good music inspired by what was surely a good dog.