Wednesday, 20 May 2009

REVIEW: Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind

Never ones to shy away from adventurous instrumental grandeur, Japan's Mono have furthermore created something of outstanding beauty and grace in 'Hymn to the Immortal Wind'. I hesitate to write a standard review here because, in truth, this is not a standard record, post-rock or otherwise.

The album is not so much of a concept as a coherent, firm narrative, written through the sleeve notes to be read as the album progresses. With 5 of the 7 tracks here clocking in at well over 10 minutes each, it becomes evident that the story unfolds in movements within each song, in addition to the clear dissections afforded by the titles. The scope of the instrumentation is also a marvel, with a full orchestra often employed to convey emotion and tale. In actuality, this feels more like a close, considered listen to a film score than it does a new release from one of post-rock's leading creators. Although their peers in Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You create similarly dynamic and evocative instrumental guitar rock, rarely does it touch the same level of layered complexity and lush, all embracing sound that Mono achieve here. This is no slur on their contemporaries, merely an indication of how far this band has moved from the genre template.

So where to venture when a logical track-by-track run down seems a gross understatement on the quality displayed on each song? Well the story and theme actually provide a legitimate description of the music in their own right, ably assisted by some lucid artwork from Esteban Rey. It chronicles what feels like a post-apocalyptic world and the journeys of a young couple, beholden to one another. They become eternally connected in sharing these end of world experiences and many of the song stories on the album - as well as the overall collective title - nod towards infinity, a place where the pair will always remain together. In finding this point, though, they brave the harsh reality of their physical world and the memories of a better time. Their solace is generally found in creating connections to their continuing spiritual bond, which is likely the eponymous 'Immortal Wind' and the
Everlasting Light of the final track.

The music, then, veers from the melancholy of loss and longing to the joyous heights of rekindling life on a timeless journey. If all of this sounds highly pretentious or preposterous, then I would simply make the points that: 1) this is a Mono review and was to be expected.....I have little sympathy, dear reader, if this was not abundantly clear after the words 'post' and 'rock' appeared just 4 sentences in, and 2) have you heard about Crack the Skye? This theme is tame by comparison. Part of the joy I receive from elongated instrumental sets like this is digging into the stories/concepts and attempting to visualise what the artist was attempting to convey through the music alone. It adds an element of involvement that is sometimes engaging for the listener, albeit it won't always lend itself to idle repeat listens.....for the latter I have my trusty Britpop classics.

All of the standard adjectives can be applied to this release.....sweeping, majestic, epic, evocative, beautiful, and many more besides.....yet they convey insufficiently the joy of the record. The cinematic atmosphere created and the close interaction between music, storyline and artwork take the listening experience into a more thoughtful, contemplative realm than other releases in the genre. Other than recommending a quiet night in with this outstanding album, there is little more that a review of 'Hymn to the Immortal Wind' can offer you. In other words, buy this album.

Official Site / Myspace

Mono - Ashes in the Snow

Buy it at Insound!

"We are not bound by the passing of time, Underneath every layer of the vessel that we call the body, there lies only the soul, where memory lives on."

Now playing: Isis - Hand Of The Host
via FoxyTunes


David said...

Check out the Japanese 'screamo' band by the name of Envy.

Similar post rock soft/loud/soft dynamic to EITS et al but with the added feeling of some searing vocals.

zidered said...

Thanks man, I'd come across them on that split with Thursday but never went further. Reminds me to have a good dig in as soon as....cheers!