Review Summary: Even the silence between songs is flawless.
Climaxes make music. Pop music is often constructed around the premise that a hook or chorus will provide the release and the high point necessary in order to make the listener feel something; a shiver, a fist-pump or a smile. Music without those moments is for the background of poker evenings and hotel foyers and doesn't deserve to be counted as music. The tricky bit is finding the right level and frequency of climax. It can't be a peak if everything's at the same relentlessly high intensity; nobody notices an explosion in a collapsing burning building. Post-rock struggles with this idea all of the time, and especially when it's executed poorly. Mono, fortunately, seem to have worked it out.
Because Hymn To The Immortal Wind knows exactly when to hit you and when to pull its punches. Pure As Snow is a case in point; it seems more than anything else here to embody or personify or connect with the album's title; the flow of the drums and the drawn out delay and reverb on the guitars are so reminiscent of a beautifully destructive hurricane, ripping rocks from the face of a mountain and pummeling some snow-covered hill in Siberia. And it's a hurricane which isn't going to pass you by without leaving an impression; in the strings and the atmospherics and the absolutely huge soundscapes Mono manage to bury a nostalgia and imagery which is obviously present and still hopelessly enigmatic. When you catch a stranger's eye on the subway and you know you're both thinking the same thing â€“ that's what Hymn To The Immortal Wind feels like.
And in the same way that you're never sure how long those fleeting glimpses in metro carriages last for, Hymn is equally defiant of normal concepts of time. Standing damn confident at over an hour long, it is stubborn and it is beautiful and it is somehow capable of lasting for about 10 seconds because that's about the length of time you're able to pull yourself from under the flood of violins and cymbals and heaven-knows-what that are giving you a deafening aural orgasm. Hymn seems to have its conceptual and atmospheric roots in the idea of a snowstorm; Burial At Sea moves from a threatening anticipation to a fierce and vast conclusion which sees you trapped beneath the waves.
Having placed so much stock in their importance, it's crucial to remember that climaxes are almost nothing without the approaches that feel right and fit right, and were it not for the flawless execution of those beginnings, those climbs, Hymn would probably be just another post rock album with nothing to differentiate itself. But the gale force momentum of Ashes In Snow and the epic building piano of closer Everlasting Light are just brackets within which lie hundreds (no hyperbole) of brilliantly crafted and melodic moments that merge without any effort with the more crashing ideas where the volume is cranked up. Hymn To The Immortal Wind leaves you breathless from its most furious and ecstatic moments but even shorter for air with its melancholy segments and its slow-burning landscapes. Even the silence between songs is addictive and attention-grabbing.
Being epic is a hard thing to do without looking pretentious or foolish but here every movement, every arpeggio and every shuddering beat feels so important, whether it's the first note or the one which sends the emotional rollercoaster over the edge and into the abyss. If climax is what makes music, Mono have a lot of blood in their veins and seem intent on making every second count. The very last thing the album has to say is a haunting, near-aquatic guitar line with a muted wall of sound beneath it and subdued drums trying their hardest to break through. Eventually, they do, and it's every bit as astonishing and massive as you'd expect. And then a final crescendo, heading towards a cliff's edge, is halted suddenly and you're left hanging from the thinnest thread, slightly confused in the same way you were when she kissed you for the first time. And then it's gone.
So much post-rock seems not to understand itself, but this is a record which feels so intricately assembled that you know it could only have been written by a band whose genius simply gives the illusion
of meticulous planning. There is absolutely no doubt that this is some of the best-orchestrated and most moving sound recorded in a hell of a long time. Hymn To The Immortal Wind has a timeless aura about it, as if it could quite easily have been produced hundreds of years ago in wastelands and castle courtyards. It's the kind of music everybody wants playing when they finally get to see the northern lights or the pyramids or Paris at night: painfully optimistic, absolutely awe-inspiring and quite simply sublime.