Published Feb 03, 2012Efrim Menuck is not the best singer. The lead guitarist's oral tone is somewhere between a warble, a wail, a whine and a moan. Yet, in the context of Montreal quintet Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra -- betwixt the sweetly duelling violins of Jessica Moss and Sophie Trudeau, the classy drumming of blazer wearing David Payant and the upright bass of Thierry Amar -- Menuck's vocals mystifyingly work, adding an extra layer of bittersweet sorrow that is essential to their sound. The steady back-up vocals of the violinists, and their instruments themselves naturally in the range of the human voice, support his emoting like a mother coddling a crying child.
Unfortunately, Menuck also used his voice to talk to the audience an awful lot. It started a couple songs in when he tried to practise his "Nickelback banter," and received mixed results. All he got for "Go Canucks" was some shuffling and a surprising boo, to which he backtracked by saying that it was a stupid name for a team and he doesn't like hockey anyway. Facing catcalls between most songs, he eventually straight up asked if there were any questions, leading to a series of inane comments about his hair, bottled water and their availability to play birthdays and funerals.
Like the banter, with its moments of reflection, anxiety and laughter, Thee Silver Mt. Zion's sound ebbed and flowed throughout their set. They hit all their spots dead on for maximum impact of tension and release. When Payant and Amar locked in a groove, there was no stopping one's body from swaying, and the balance between the ethereal violins and Menuck's demolished guitar sound was exquisite. None of them overplay their instruments, even when they were laying it all out there, which is why their dynamics have such range and power. They may be a little rough around the edges, but they are undeniably tasteful. Obviously, the Nickelback banter still needs some work, though.