Review Summary: The Soundtrack To A Thousand Lonely Suicides.
Whenever I get a new Post-Rock album I have an OCD moment and partake of the following "ritual" when I listen to it for the first time. I put on my headphones, sit on the comfy chair in the living room and as soon as I press play I sink deep into the chair and close my eyes. The music then begins to paint its story upon the inside of my eyelids as I sit transfixed. Usually the scenes that grace my brain are those of an uplifting and happy nature and follow the ebb and flow of the music, unless it happens to be a Godspeed You! Black Emperor album which in that case they usually involve apocalypse on a grand scale, but in the case of Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain
the images that appeared were representative of me at my most vulnerable. It was bleak, depressing, and lonely. After finishing the album I immediately thought back to my introduction to the genre with the song Dead Flag Blues. If F#A# (Infinity)
is the soundtrack to the end-times, then Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain
is the soundtrack to its "thousand lonely suicides".
The first thing that becomes apparent when listening to Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain
is that the guitar heavy dynamics normally associated with Mono have taken a backseat to the mournful strings provided by Katsuhiko Maeda (World's End Girlfriend). Maeda's minimalistic string arrangements are comprised mainly of slow, brooding cello overlapped by mournful violin that weaves in and out of the space given to it by the cello. Mono's contentment to be backing musicians helps in the overall atmosphere of the piece. The gentle guitar work in the first track helps to create the perfect backing for the strings to shine and the desolate reverb soaked dissonance provided by the trademark Mono feedback elevates the second track from a somber dirge to a hauntingly beautiful work. That's not to say that Mono never hops into the driver's seat from time to time. The third track of Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain
is driven entirely by Mono with it building into a slightly distorted, reverb heavy crescendo accented by a touch of violin that accentuates its violent beauty. The entire album serves as a preview for the magnificent fifth track. Beginning with only a distant piano and a bleak and melancholic strings section, it would seem as though the final track is about to carry the same feeling of despair as the tracks preceding it, but it soon begins to brim with hope. It begins with the uplifting guitars struggling to break through the grim strings but when they finally burst through, the atmosphere is nothing short of inspiring.
Even though Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain
is one of the most depressing pieces of music I have ever come across, it is also one of the most uplifting. Its descent into darkness is only eclipsed by its ascent into light and its this dichotomy that raises Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain
from just another Post-Rock album to one of the genre's shining achievements.