MONO play the Horseshoe Wednesday (September 12). See listing. Rating: NNNN On their sixth album, Japanese post-rock band Mono have accepted the clichés of instrumental music. You want epic? How about swooping, melodramatic string section parts all over the place. Cinematic? You can practically ….
Japan's Mono have been exploring the margins of post-rock since 2006 when they collaborated with World's End Girlfriend on 2006's Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain, using electronics, strings, chorus, a pianist, and a saxophonist. 2009's Hymn to the Immortal Wind featured large string and wind sections, followed by the live festival performance Holy Ground: NYC Live in collaboration with the Wordless Music Orchestra under the conduction of Jefrey Milarski. Those albums showcased Mono's sound in transition from its thundering post-rock origins.
Before we begin, I'd like you to draw a 3" x 3" grid. Inside that grid, in each individual box, place a descriptive word or phrase that you'd associate with post rock. No doubles or repeaters. Towering. Epic. Soundscape. Beautiful. Melody. Classical. Instrumental. Soaring. Powerful. Subtle. Emotive ….
Review Summary: Mono are as fine tuned as ever, but lacking the dark dramatics of their previous albums "For My Parents" makes for a divisive and somewhat disappointing listen.To outright criticize Mono for a lack of originality would be an exercise in futility. After all, the Japanese post-rock band has stuck to their guns by producing the same album over and over again, with little to no change in sound or presentation. And while we as music listeners scoff at such unabashed stubbornness, there’s something undeniably endearing about such resilience.
It's business as usual from good old reliable Mono... By this point, it’s become pretty clear what to expect from a Mono album – certainly, they’re a band who seem intent upon refining a well-established sound, rather than exploring new avenues. And while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (after all, very few instrumental rock bands are as adept as the Japanese four-piece), recent records have seen the band veer dangerously close to the saccharine.
Here’s how Simon Reynolds laid it out in the May 1994 issue of Wire: “Post-rock means using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes, using guitars as facilitators of timbres and textures rather than riffs and power chords. ” Under this definition, Japanese quartet Mono are at best half post-rock at this point. Might you be reminded that 2009’s Steve Albini-produced Hymn to the Immortal Wind not only featured heaves of that traditional rock instrumentation (Takaakira Goto’s and Hideki Suematsu’s guitars, Tamaki Kunishi’s bass, Yasunori Takada’s drums), but also cellos, flutes, violas, contrabasses, and more.
Mono are a post-rock band with a well-tested formula that they have been working for years: lay out a weepy string theme, fatten it up slowly over nine or 10 minutes, and then nail it to the wall with guitars. On their latest album, For My Parents, there isn't much juice remaining in it: You can anticipate every single dynamic shift in its five compositions, which is not typically an asset for instrumental music meant to take you on an emotional journey. There isn't much of a journey to be taken on For My Parents; the music doesn't develop, darken, or tell a story so much as it expands and deflates like a balloon.