Mono & The Ocean‘s split 12″ follows the template of the recently reviewed All We Expected/Raum Kingdom split LP. Mono’s side is instrumental, The Ocean’s has vocals, and yet both are complimentary. One might say that the groundwork was laid with the inclusion of vocals on Mono’s last double album, but The Ocean has changed as well, switching a drummer and a guitarist. The German band’s incorporation of cello and piano also makes them a perfect match for their Japanese counterparts, whose orchestral leanings have always set them apart from the pack. It’s great to hear the whole band together again after Takaakira “Taka” Goto’s solo effort earlier this year; Mono’s side is also being called a “trailer” for a new album in early 2016.
Let’s get to Mono’s instrumental contribution first, as this is what our readers are most interested in experiencing. (Fear not; we’re confident that Echoes & Dust will embrace the flip!) At 11 minutes, it’s another epic triumph for the band, an all-out crowd pleaser in the vein of “Recoil, Ignite” from Rays of Darkness. The track doesn’t take long to develop, adding cymbal shimmer to a swift guitar build, as if to save time. When the military snares enter, there’s no mistaking that this is Mono, and that the band is still in its prime. Mono retains the energy of its early years, and still continues to impress despite having nothing to prove. In light of this fact, it’s important to note that the track’s inspiration is “life and death and regeneration.” As Taka writes, “Even when our bodies decay and decompose, our souls will prevail unchanged. Our bodies will act as seeds for the next generation.” It’s easy to read such words as a parable for the generations of post-rock bands that Mono will have influenced by the time they retire.
By the center of “Death in Reverse”, it becomes difficult to count the guitars, as a wall of sound swirls like an abstract painting. But the biggest impact is felt in the final four minutes, when piano, strings, glockenspiel and wind take over. This orchestral side of Mono is its bread and butter, and makes a lasting impact here. It also offers a perfect segue into the 13-minute “The Quiet Observer”, which starts with – you guessed it – drums, piano and cello. For the first few minutes at least, one could mistake The Ocean for Mono. That is, until the guitars enter, betraying a more rock-oriented style. And when the vocals enter, we know that we’re in a different land, a land of screaming melancholy. “The Quiet Observer” is based on the film Enter the Void, and addresses drug abuse, hallucination and self-deception. Cries of “RISE! FLOAT!” are heard above crushing riffs; this is more Metallica than Mono, but the transition from humble origins to sonic assault is the key to its appeal. A mid-piece breakdown makes us long for an instrumental version, but that likely has more to do with the nature of this site than the quality of the song. Buy it for half of the 12″, whatever your taste, and stay for the other. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 23 October