What a month for Pelagic Records. First came a new album from pg.lost, then an split EP from Ef & Tiny Fingers, then an aural banquet from Wang Wen, and now the coup de grâce: a new studio set from Mono (released by Temporary Residence in the U.S.). Could post-rock fans be any happier? We doubt it.
Mono has never been a band in crisis, yet the quartet has tried much harder than most bands to please its fans. When the band’s orchestral leanings drew fire from traditionalists, the band responded by releasing two albums concurrently: one in the old style and one in the new, with a few surprises to boot. After pleasing everyone, Mono is back to backing the music it wants to make. In this case, it means continuing down the path of stringed drama, a decision that allows for deep emotions and subtle nuance. Sure, there’s the “typical” Mono stormer: “Death in Rebirth”, which first appeared in a slightly different form on last year’s split with The Ocean, and whose highlight is a bank of military drums. But “Stellar” doesn’t even seem to have any guitars. What it does have is a piano, a small string section, stereo glockenspiel and an advancing wall of static, a seeming successor to “The Last Rays”. Having seen Mono with a 23-piece orchestra a couple years back, I can attest to the wisdom of using the fullest sound possible. These compositions are large, and require largesse. The return of Steve Albini (Hymn to the Immortal Wind) certainly helps the process, as Requiem for Hell seems a natural successor to that classic release.
So yes, Mono fans, there IS a large track: an 18-minute behemoth sitting at the center of a 46-minute album. Everything else must get out of its way. This title piece reflects the album’s inspiration; The Divine Comedy is neither quiet nor restrained, and the same holds true for this music. Mono has always addressed grand themes of heaven and hell, and now purgatory is thrown into the mix as well, freeing the band to be as dramatic as they’d like to be. The track flows like the river to hell, bearing the author to a place of passion and desire, crime and punishment. For ten minutes, the melody builds and builds, daring anyone to stop it. And then finally the breakdown. Yes, we all know what’s coming next, but isn’t that the appeal of post-rock ~ the catharsis of fulfilled expectation? As an added benefit, in this instance the final metallic surge is longer and louder than expected, a reflection of the band’s confidence.
Mono’s power is balanced by restraint. The set’s purest moments arrive on “Ely’s Heartbeat”, built on a sample of an in-utero heartbeat: the first child of a friend, also the owner of Temporary Residence. The music reflects the hope of new parents, the glowing promise of new life and a world to come. In effect, the track serves as a reflection of Dante’s Paradiso. Mono has traveled through each phase of life, only to begin again: a stunning resurrection. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 14 October