Japanese instrumental quartet Mono
(guitarists Takaakira Goto and Yoda, bassist Tamaki, drummer Yasunori Takada)
are purveyors of post-rock's schizophrenic dynamics.
Under the Pipal Tree (Tzadik, 2001), notably the lengthy
Karelia Opus 2
(a drums-intense space-rock crescendo with cosmic guitar)
and Error #9
(a rollercoaster of violent and mellow passages a` la Mogwai),
experimented with a sound that was
claustrophobic and hysterical but shunned the "wall of noise" of Japanese
noise-mongers such as
Merzbow in favor of an articulate development
of fractures and continuities that resembled the "suites" of progressive-rock
and psychedelic music.
The melancholy zenith comes with the ten-minute Human Highway, a quiet
meditative guitar piece with strings.
The centerpiece of One Step More And You Die (Arena Rock, 2003) was
the 16-minute Com, a more austere and sophisticated manifesto of their
post-psychedelic chamber music.
A tenuous guitar melody mutates into a space-rock juggernaut. The music
implodes into absolute silence. Then it erupts into an agonizing
Hendrix-ian blues-rock with noisier and noisier
Basically, the same piece swings wildly between opposite extremes.
A Speeding Car is instead a linear crescendo of the kind that they
pioneered on the first album, but the melodic intensity is much higher,
bordering on the ecstatic and spiritual.
The group's better grasp on the emotional flow made it sound like a
more barbaric and brutal version of Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor.
But the huge difference is that Mono have a heart.
The guitar weaves the touching raga-style hymn of Sabbath over a somber
drum beat, and Mopish Morning Halation Wiper is a mournful adagio
(despite the out-of-tune tones).
Every piece indulges in sentimental overtones that were unknown to the founding
fathers of post-rock.
The calmer and more introspective Walking Cloud And Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered And The Sun Shined (Temporary Residence, 2004) boasted two more
compositional peaks, the
(the frantically plucked guitar chords of Takaakira Goto weave
an atmosphere of soaring, propulsive ecstasy)
15-minute Lost Snow (whose central section is a catalog of different
ways to produce guitar drones), and, in general, continued to look for
an exit strategy from the post-rock artifices of the first album.
Even Halcyon, the one piece that revisits the
elegiac mood of the second album, eventually abandons it for another cosmic
hymn; and Ode never quite leaves its limbo of daydreaming melancholy.
The first album toyed with post-rock torment, and the second album
focused on emotion. This third album moved towards a more abstract format,
a lot less sentimental but also a lot more pensive.
The trilogy as a whole provided three perspectives on
introversion in music, each complementing the others.
The progression towards a less emotional atmosphere continued on
You Are There (Temporary Residence, 2006), on which the relatively
smooth but lush decays of
the 13-minute The Flames Beyond Cold Mountain (mournful choir,
glacial instrumental crescendo, stately melody of droning guitar),
the 15-minute Yearning (funereal tempo, funeral guitar line) and
the album standout, the 13-minute Moonlight (gentle paradisiac guitar melody, adagio-like
strings, soaring vibrato, explosive distortion),
were coupled with two short and romantic orchestral elegies,
A Heart Has Asked for the Pleasure and The Remains of the Day
that represented a major turn of events for Mono, as far removed from
their trademark thundering climaxes as possible.
This was perhaps Mono's equivalent of Sonic Youth's Sister.
However, the shift towards austere ambience (of one kind or another) was not
completely matched by creativity, and the material sounded somewhat inferior
to the first three albums.
Moonlight, though, redeemed everything that was redundant or wanting
on this album.
Gone (Temporary Residence, 2007)
collects Mono's EPs from 2000-2007.
Hymn To The Immortal Wind (Temporary Residence, 2009) overflows with
magniloquent and stately dynamics that borrow from the melodramatic
style of cinematic soundtracks.
The moving guitar threnody of the twelve-minute Ashes In The Snow
breaks into shoegazing distortion when stormy drumming undermines its
This emotional crescendo is reinforced by the quiet elegiac vision of
the eleven-minute Burial At Sea, in which the
guitar soon intones another fervent hymn-like melody that fades into
a humble requiem-like lament before exploding and soaring into a
An orchestral Tchaikovsky-ian adagio
envelops the tender Silent Flight Sleeping Dawn.
Having run out of viable melodies, the 13-minute The Battle To Heaven
aims for the jugular, indulging in a thundering galactic meditation for
The eleven-minute Pure As Snow (Trails Of The Winter Storm) further
highlights the limitations of this method:
the monotonous and sentimental first part resembles
easy-listening muzak and, when it finally soars as easy to expect, it could
be a ballad for Whitney Houston. The massive noisy coda is more a confession
of not knowing how to close the piece than a creative way to do so.
The ten-minute Everlasting Light winks at
Jim Steinman-esque piano-based melodrama
but then returns to the wavering guitar hymnody and the bombastic drumming
of the beginning.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Marco Spagnuolo) |
I Mono sono un quartetto strumentale giapponese formati dai due chitarristi Takaakira Goto e Yoda, il bassista Tamaki , e il batterista Yasunori Takada. I Mono sono i fornitori di dinamiche schizofreniche dell’intero post-rock.
Under the Pipal Tree (Tzadik, 2001), in cui spiccano la lunga Karelia e Error #9, introdusse un sound che e’ sia claustrofobico sia isterico ma evita i muri di rumore di altri loro compatrioti pazzoidi, due nomi su tutti, Boredoms e Merzbow ,in favore di un piu’ articolato sviluppo delle fratture e delle continuita’ che riassemblano il formato della "suite" nel prog-rock.
Il brano chiave dell’album One Step More And You Die (Arena Rock, 2003) sono i 16 minuti di Com, il manifesto artistico della loro instabile arte. Una migliore padronanza da parte del gruppo, del flusso emozionale rendono l’album una sorta di versione piu’ barbara e brutale di Mogwai e Godspeed You Black Emperor.
Il piu’ calmo ed introspettivo Walking Cloud And Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered And The Sun Shined (Temporary Residence, 2004) vantava due picchi piu’ composizionali i 10 minuti di 16:12 e i 10 minuti di Lost Snow, ma in generale segnalava una strategia di uscita dagli artifici del post-rock dei due album precedenti.
La progressione verso una atmosfera meno apocalittica continua su You Are There (Temporary Residence, 2006), i disfacimenti relativamente omogenei dei 15 minuti di Yearning, i 13 minuti di Moonlight e i 13 minuti di The Flames Beyond Cold Mountain sono inserite insieme a due brani brevi e di facile presa, A Heart Has Asked for the Pleasure e The Remains of the Day. Questo forse rappresenta l’equivalente dei Mono dell’album Sister dei Sonic Youth.