Review Summary: Sonic bliss.
Post rock and pretentiousness usually go hand in hand with one another. Hell, Efrim Menuck of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and 30 million side projects makes a living out of being an arrogant snob. Granted, his band was responsible for some of the best music to come out of the post rock movement, but nonetheless, the pretentiousness is still there. The long song titles and meandering structures make it somewhat of a chore to digest to the uninitiated, but those who make it through are graced with some of the most moving music ever recorded.
Mono, on the other hand, were never bogged down in their own self-righteousness. The Japanese quartet just released albums and toured “to meet the crowd,” in the words of guitarist Takaakira Goto. Mono never garnered the attention of any refutable people, and never really became all that famous. They just keep on recording and keep on playing.
In 2006, Mono released You Are There, their fourth full length album, and people started paying more attention.
What makes You Are There such a brilliant album? In terms of structure, you can’t really get more unoriginal. All of the songs start quiet and minimalist, and slowly build up throughout, layering more and more guitars until it’s as if one is swimming in a sea of reverb and delay laden guitars and pounding drums. No, what makes this album one of the best is Goto’s keen ear for composing. More so than any other post rock album, the music connects with the listener in a way that actually stimulates emotion. The beautiful arrangements, sometimes backed up with strings and piano, draw the listener in. No vocals, no samples, no arrogant ideologies, no hidden agenda. Just the beauty of the music.
Mono’s music is based upon guitar harmonies and layering. Lots and lots and lots of layering. Mono gets that post rock “wall of sound” trademark into their music, but again, there’s a fine level of polish and perfection on their music. This album doesn’t have a bad riff or an out of place sounding guitar part anywhere. Everything is carefully put into its right place to bring out the most in the music. Much more so than their previous albums, You Are There replaces intensity and eerieness with beauty. Not that this album isn’t intense, but it’s all done with a much...”nicer,” so to speak, feel. The album doesn’t vary in composition style at all, but when the base formula is this good, it doesn’t really matter.
Mono’s goal isn’t to revolutionize the post rock sound. It’s simply to take the existing formula and make it the best that it can be.
And with You Are There, they’ve succeeded.
Are You There?