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>MONO

This band makes me feel so good. Their gig was so refreshing, it changed my whole week – my whole perspective. I was feeling so negative about music and the industry after seeing loads of hyped-up, careerist, commercially minded claptrap masquerading as decent music – obvious, unimaginative bands that everyone, even my friends seemed to like....

Its so good to see a band that are making unusual, melancholy, noisy as fuck music and still being really succesful and touring the world. It fills me with hope for the future of music.

However, its difficult to find a way to write about Mono as they present something of a paradox … in some ways, what they do is quite simple – their arrangements are simple, their harmony is fairly conventional, but their effect is enormous. They don’t sing but their music speaks volumes. They’re a Japanese band, (various districts of Tokyo, not Shibuya as some have claimed), but they hardly spend any time in Japan as they’re always out touring the world. In fact, in between recording and managing their own label, Explosions in the Sky (who recently signed Seattle noiseniks Kinski) they only manage to play in Japan about four times a year.

In the past, Taka (the most talkative of the four) has name-checked Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and soundtrack artists like Ennio Morricone as influences, but when I asked him about it he said these days he’s mostly listening to classical music like Beethoven as they drive around.

“It is really … ‘mental’ music”, he explains, “It has more space in it, people can … imagine, when they listen to it.”

The classical influence is clearly apparent on their new album, “Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined" (catchy :)) produced by indie-uber-producer and Shellac frontman, Steve Albini. Despite it’s use of building, anthemic noise, its a freer, more open-planned and acoustic sounding album than their earlier efforts, featuring a string section winding it’s way in-between the guitar and bass melodies. Albini’s trademark acoustic sound and up-front drums also feature, making for a clear, bright soundscape.

There are a few clichéd references you will often see in reference to Mono – quiet-loud-quiet, Godspeed you.. blah blah (but they’re much less self-important than

MONO ARE
Tamaki - Bass
Takaakira Goto - Guitar

Yoda -Guitar
Yasunori Takada - Drums

DISCOGRAPHY
Albums
Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined

New York Soundtracks

One Step More and You Die

Under the Pipal Tree

Singles
Hey You

LINKS
Official Site
Human Highway Records
Rykodisc
Arena Rock Recordings
Temporary Residence
Forty-4 Records
Music Mine
Tzadik

them) – and don’t mention that other ‘M…’ band from Scotland, who they are always compared to but interestingly enough, claim not to listen to –

“Hmm, not so much – A very good band – we listened to their, maybe, FIRST album, back in, 98, maybe 99.”

                           

Which is kind of weird, cos to my ears the similarities to those Northern mostly-instrumentalists are SO strong. But whilst there’s a lot of people doing the ‘minor-key quiet melodic bit followed by a ton of suspended-chord god-shaking NOISE that roots you to the ground and pins you to your consciousness’ thing, Mono have their own quite particular take on it that’s quite different from that other ‘M’ band – in some ways they’re more extreme, more symphonic and repetitive, building up regularly to incredible levels of huge, ferocious, anthemic, crescendoing sound, as sweat pours off them, (I like the bits where they go from ultra fucking distorted shake-your teeth loud to ULTRA HEADFUCK TEARING CAUSTIC HOWL OF SOUND volume as they hit yet ANOTHER pedal). “Wall of noise” is insufficient to describe it – this is more like an edifice, a towering, burning cliff-face. The only other thing I can compare it to is a less skunked-up Bardo Pond or a less Wagnerian, more athletic Glenn Branca

Mono also lack some of “M…”s (- I don’t know - Anglo-Saxon? Western?) gloom, having something more of an optimism to their sound (transcendental? Eastern?) and their huge, building passages. In this they share something in common with another

 

band or two they highly rate, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer, whose sound whilst always extreme never becomes overly brooding or dark.

But then, Mono push all that aside with music, which as they say, is more important than words. Maybe they do

 

take themselves too seriously, and maybe they do use too much delay, but at the gig, at times, as I stood at the front, all these comparisons and dualities slipped away, their sound poured on and on and cascaded through me like a huge waterfall, eyes shut. Like I said, what they do is really quite simple, but it has such a powerful effect, that you can forget all the words, all the data and just absorb sound.

Mono’s new album, “Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined" is out now. The band are currently touring Europe (see their website below for further details) and will be back in the UK on the 29th of August at the Islington Academy.

Interview and pictures by Thunder Flash