The dust has barely settled following the release of Fuck Off Get Free Pour Light On Everything and already Thee Silver Mt. Zion have graced us with this gem. Ever the shape shifters, I nonetheless found myself double checking my calendar to make sure this press release wasn’t an April Fool’s gag. A House music 12” from Silver Mt. Zion?
A remix EP isn’t a new concept, but not exactly what one might expect from a band like this, or from a label like Constellation. Both parties were no doubt aware of this fact, and they stress that this project was undertaken in earnest, and most importantly “No irony. Because we love that kind of music, and impromptu dance parties too.” Unlike in Europe, in North America it’s taken longer for dance music to supplant Rock as the dominant populist musical form. Disco was famously maligned by the mainstream press and House music and Techno were nurtured by the black, latino and gay communities. This outsider status made the escapism and liberation of the club all the more powerful, and gave the space a sense of revolutionary potential that is easy to overlook in the current climate of international superstar DJs and corporate events. And yet the impromptu dance parties continue around the globe, in lofts and basements and reclaimed industrial buildings. Coming from this perspective, and considering the recent flirtation with dance music in the Noise and synth scenes, this 12” doesn’t seem so odd.
Released in the format of a 12” dance LP, with ~12 minute long cuts on each side, Hang On To Each Other is a reimagining of “Hang On To Each Other” from 2005’s Horses in the Sky. The format doesn’t seem completely alien either, considering that the double album “This Is Our Punk-Rock,” Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing was comprised of side-long tracks. Many of Mt. Zion’s most memorable melodies come from this era of the band, some of which are downright hummable. “Hang On To Each Other” was a lo-fi track recording around a campfire, the seven voices accompanied by a quiet cycle of chords played on a harmonium. At the time they noticed that the chord progression was typical of House music, and decided one day to produce a reworking of the song.
The sparse intro of swelling feedback gradually morphs into a pulse, providing a gradually introduction for tentative listeners as well as DJs mixing out of a previous track. AurorA’s Ariel Engle is enlisted to provide appropriately huge and soulful vocals, perfectly suited to both the DIY spirit of Mt Zion but capable enough to sell this as and sincere homage to House music. Birds have long played an important symbolic role in the world of Mt Zion, and that imagery remains at the core here, as Engle implores us to “…cling to each other/ Like pigeons in the rain.” Both tracks also have extended bridges of noisy swelling waves of sound, with careful panning to provide a sense of motion in space. Though both tracks are just about 120 bpm, the drum programming on ““Any Fucking Thing You Love” makes it seem more high energy than the relatively chill “Birds Toss Precious Flowers.”
It may have taken nearly a decade, but Hang On To Each Other nails the dance music dynamic perfectly while still presenting an aesthetic that is perfectly in keeping with the band’s identity. Using drum machines and sequencers from 25 years ago, plus some feedback and tape delay and other effects, both tracks have just enough grit and personality to hold the interest of those who may not normally be interested in dance music. With the recent death of pioneering House DJ and producer Frankie Knuckles, perhaps this is the right moment for rock audiences to dig a bit deeper into the history of dance music.
Side A: “Any Fucking Thing You Love” 121 bpm
Side B: “Birds Toss Precious Flowers” 119bpm