This release is all about expansion. Not only did the group change their name from A Silver Mt. Zion to The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band, but they've added new members and instead of simply releasing another album full of the same sorts of sounds, the group has expanded into entirely new sonic territory on the record in places. When I first heard their release He Has Left Us Alone..., I wondered if it would be a one-off recording with several members of Godspeed You Black Emperor and that would be it.
That wondering, though, and the wondering of anyone else who thought that the group would simply turn into "that GYBE side project" gets dramatically shaken to the ground 4 songs into this release. While this is obviously still the same group and there are familiar themes that weave throughout this recording, the group also explores vibrant new places, including the creation of easily their loudest song to date, as well as a song that is probably the most "pop"-based that the group has ever done.
The album opens with the 9-minute "Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats Of Fire Are Falling From The Sky!" (the song titles haven't gotten smaller either), and the track is one of sweeping beauty that you'd expect from the group. After an opening segment of twinkling electronics, a melancholy piano and string movement unfolds and builds to a slightly stirring effect. The second track "This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird's Fallen" weaves some more strings into a wavering electric guitar and the track fades nicely into the spoken-word intro of "Built Then Burnt (Hurrah! Hurrah!)." A tricky beast to tame, the emotive beginning of the song (over some subtle strings) manages to work on repeated listens simply because you can hear actual excitement in the voice.
As mentioned above, though, the real blistering comes in the form of the fourth track "Take These Hands And Throw Them In The River." Over layers and layers of attacking guitars and stringed instruments, Effrim sings of an increasing police state through mild dips and absolutely frantic crescendos. After the 7-minute lyrical and musical attack, things wisely calm down for a track on the long centerpiece track of "Could've Moved Mountains." After starting out with quiet vocals and slight guitars, the track builds to a steady level before fading into the Rachels-esque pianos and strings of the sixth track "Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk W/You."
The final quarter of the album is also some of the most inspiring, as "C'Mon ComeOn!(Loose An Endless Longing)" starts at a feverish pitch before winding down into quiet before dropping shimmering guitars, loud distorted percussion, and some nice horns to close things out at an equally high level. The last song on the disc is "The Triumph Of Tired Eyes," and the track is probably the closest the group will get to writing a singalong (although the rousing chorus of "musicians are cowards" will probably have plenty of listeners joining Effrim).
Even though it's only 8 tracks long, Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward is quite a release to digest. It feels twice as long as their last release He Has Left Us Alone..., (but not in a bad way) and there are plenty of new sounds to soak up and enjoy (it's especially nice to hear them crank up the volume at the several points they do so). At this point, it's probably becoming a bit redundant, but the packaging on this release is gorgeous. Constellation has again outdone themselves in that department, as the CD release is gatefold cardboard with amazing dark ink printing and the disc itself is housed in one side in another cardboard slipcase while the other side contains a mini-poster (the vinyl release is probably even better as a 2x10" and I may have to order a copy of it as well). If you're at all interested in the group and haven't yet heard them, shame on you. If you're a fan of GYBE, this release will make the wait until their next disc a whole lot easier.