Lost beneath all the post-rock excitement is the fact that MONO can be delicate and subtle, as proven on their very first soundtrack. The topic of burakumin ~ people segregated in Japanese society based on their “place of residence and bloodline” ~ is hushed as a nearly unspeakable truth. And yet director Yusaku Mitsuwaka chooses to bring the subject to light in his new documentary, My Story, The Buraku Story.
MONO will eventually grow to bombast, but most of their score is ambient and melancholy, beginning with the choral loops of the opener and tragic glissandos of “Watashi.” By the time the piano enters “Kokyo,” the mood has already been set. Something has buckled; something has broken. One may imagine, through no fault of one’s own, being labeled, displaced, shunted away from the rest of society. When such things happen between nations, they are called war crimes; when they happen within nations, they are called “policies.” The heartbreak of such situations is conveyed by the band through tender melodies and quiet orchestral flourishes.
One of MONO’s kind touches is to release a representative single, rather than the sole post-rock piece. “Kioku” (memory, reflection, remembrance) sails upon a soft sea of strings, seeking solace. Victims deserve voices. To pretend that such things never happened is to move forward on the basis of a lie: a weak foundation. The director and band offer acknowledgment, empathy, even a modicum of shame: this happened here.
Chinmoku is a word of multiple meanings. While the word conveys a Japanese appreciation of silence, in this instance the tone is contemplative rather than complicit. The track of the same name contains rattles, a reminder that the past echoes into the present. In related fashion, the word himitsu bears the weight of a hidden secret. In Mitsuwaka’s lens, the secrets come to light, while MONO presses forward into tonal illumination.
Post-rock fans may only be interested in “The Place” (which is also the only track with an English title). But MONO fans may be enthralled at this tender insight into their favorite band. Mitsuwaka and MONO eschew the loud for the soft, the obvious for the hidden, the official story for the truth, ending on a hopeful note: the wrong kind of silence has finally been broken. (Richard Allen)