Efrim Manuel Menuck is best known as co-founder of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, leader of agit-chamber-punk group Thee Silver Mt. Zion, and member of the Vic Chesnutt Band (2007-2009); he has a combined thirteen albums under his belt with these three groups. He is also co-founder of Montreal's Hotel2Tango recording studio, with dozens of recording, arranging and guest playing credits to his name, for a list of artists as diverse as British Sea Power, Carla Bozulich's Evangelista, and Grant Hart.
Fans of Menuck will be well versed in his highly original and constantly evolving approach to the sound of the electric guitar – a unique combination of short and long analog delays, biting compression and blown-out clouds of pink noise distortion. His recasting of various folkways through the lens of uncompromising punk-rock is also well-documented in the discography of Thee Silver Mt. Zion, with that band's use of poetically political group singing set against a hybrid of damaged blues, waltz, klezmer and folk instrumental tropes.
Perhaps less appreciated is Menuck's work as an inventive signal-bender and sound-sculptor, with an overriding commitment to analog processing, tape manipulations, re-amping and other iterative strategies. Efrim's aesthetic and techniques remain about as diametrically opposite to the dominant Pro-Tools and DSP culture as it gets for someone working in contemporary multi-tracked rock composition and production.
Efrim Manuel Menuck Plays "High Gospel" rallies all of these talents and sensibilities to deliver a powerful and personal album that serves as an ode to his adopted Montreal hometown (where he has now lived for two decades), the passing of great friends (Vic Chesnutt, Emma) and new fatherhood. Entirely self-produced and tracked at various Montreal locations, the album offers a confident, focused, humble and enveloping song cycle.
The droning, mangled electric guitar beds that underpin group-vocal melodies and dive-bombing electronics on the album’s opening track, and the hauntingly processed field recordings and ominous tape-delayed sound-sculpture of "a 12-pt. program for keep on keepin’ on", establish Menuck’s inimitable sonic palette in uncompromising and inspired style. "12-pt. program" ends in a glorious squall of soaring tones and distorted breakcore beats that yield to the ensuing song's intimate yet wide-screen suite for electric guitar and violin (courtesy Silver Mt. Zion bandmate and partner Jessica Moss). "heavy calls & hospitals blues" closes Side 1 with a simple piano-based ballad that harkens back to Efrim's vocal debut on the first Silver Mt. Zion album in 1999.
The first three songs on Side 2 deploy otherwordly ambience against repeating and contrapuntal melodies filtered through various pedal chains, occupying a distinctive interzone between electronic music and instrumental rock. In the second of these,"kaddish for chesnutt”, Efrim astonishes with lyrics that convey a profound intimacy with Vic, celebrating his life and death in unflinching eulogy. The final scorched-earth solo guitar figures that introduce "i am no longer a motherless child" relent to organ and keyboard oscillations and what is perhaps the most unabashedly celebratory pop song Menuck has ever produced, propelled by a wide-eyed, joyous, deeply proud (and existentially relieved?) vocal that is all chorus: the song title sung over and over....
Thanks for listening.
1. our lady of parc extension and her munificent sorrows
2. a 12-pt. program for keep on keepin' on
3. august four, year-of-our-lord blues
4. heavy calls & hospital blues
5. heaven's engine is a dusty ol' bellows
6. kaddish for chesnutt
7. chickadees' roar pt. 2
8. i am no longer a motherless child
Running time: 00:41:01
LP is pressed on 180g vinyl at Optimal (Germany) and comes in a jacket printed in full colour on thick 24pt board with matte UV varnish. LP comes with a limited edition 10"x20" art print poster and a download card of the album. LP also includes an 8"x8" colour insert card and 4"x8" fold-out lyric sheet.
CD comes in a custom gatefold jacket printed on 100% recycled CCNB paperboard in full colour with a matte UV varnish and a full colour printed CD sleeve on reverse 9pt cardstock. CD also includes a 4"x8" fold-out lyric sheet.
Written, played and recorded by Efrim Manuel Menuck at Thee Mighty Hotel2Tango, P.J. Mansions and Bloomfield Acres, Montreal, 2010-2011.
Katie Moore: vocals on track 1
David Payant: drums on tracks 1, 2, 8
Jessica Moss: violin on tracks 1, 3, 8
Chorale on track 6: Thierry Amar, Nadia & Jessica Moss, David Payant
Mastered by Harris Newman.
Front cover painting of Efrim & Ezra by Corri-Lynn Tetz. Back cover handset in vintage wood type at Popolo Press by Kiva Tanya Stimac. CD gatefold/LP insert collage handmade by Jessica Moss.