Review Summary: In which Mono and World's End Girlfriend find beauty in even the most undesirable facets of human emotion...
In regards to my excursions into the vast, inconceivably electrifying world that is music, I rarely happen upon albums that I simply get lost
in. Whether it be from the sheer enveloping, transgressing quality of a piece, or by the way everything converges just perfectly, certain works just cause me to visit them endlessly.
The collaborative effort between World’s End Girlfriend and Mono is one such album. However, Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain
should not have the effect on me that it does. The picture it depicts is bleak--downright depressing even.--as the lurid blacks and grays coalesce into a despondent and hopeless scene. It’s beautiful, however, in that it so seamlessly creates this feeling, despite how ugly and dreary it truly is.
Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain
achieves this because of the emotive songwriting contained within as both acts clearly had the same goal. At its heart lies a strict, yet incredibly solid post-rock affair, courtesy of genre behemoths, Mono. Yet it’s impossible to ignore what is added by enigmatic neo-classical/electronica artist, Katsuhiko Maeda (a.k.a World’s End Girlfriend). By all rights, the album shouldn’t sound they way it does, because the artists at hand shouldn’t mesh as well as the do. In the past, Maeda’s relied on electro-jazzy freak outs sprinkled amongst the backdrops of sweeping orchestral movements, often times finding himself on the wrong side of the thin line that is genius and madness. And Mono, whose to-the-point methodology of musical creation, seems so complete in itself, that any outside influence would seem ill fitting. Regardless of these sentiments, Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain
works, and without a hitch at that.
And how does it “work?” Is it the “glorious” and “breathtaking” performances of the compositions? Well, yes, but to say such things would be selling the album short, as there is much more at hand than a few beautiful songs. Rather, the album works well because of the keen ear to detail that was clearly present. While the more ambient sections seem to be haphazardly placed as filler, even they
feel like meticulously calculated passages. In fact, everything seems to have been plotted out to an obscene degree. Yet despite this, everything sounds wholly organic, as if it’s just as possible that the musicians simply “stumbled” upon these chords, or these notes.
Regardless of how they happened upon these compositions, Mono and World’s End Girlfriend made five, incredibly varied and wonderfully gorgeous songs. Though very different, they contain the same themes: loneliness, despair, helplessness, and unfathomable sadness. As stated earlier, it sounds horrid--a lugubrious journey into the mind of a person who’s moments away from taking their own life. There is something beautiful in the expression of these themes, however, something typically untapped in most music. The awful, mournful emotions expressed here are embraced, giving the feeling that there is beauty in every emotion, even if they aren’t “love” and “happiness.”
Each track is untitled, as to perhaps purvey the ambiguity of what the artists were trying to convey. The first track opens, and feels incredibly [i]hollow[i]. solemn strings play, as their tones reverberate off lonely walls. As the song progresses, more stringed instruments are added, until the piece sounds like a room of a half dozen people mournfully weeping. A very subdued guitar enters toward the end, and the song sort of fades away into the second movement. There is no “climax” per se, but the song is in no desperate need of one. It isn’t flashy, instead opting for an incredibly mellow, unassuming vibe. The second track is somewhat in the vein of the former, but with a bit more emphasis on a “bigger” sound. It grows more as the song progresses, adding more dynamics and instruments. A ghostly voice wails silently in the background as the song swells, ending in a finale much like the first track.
Track three mixes things up a bit, sounding more uplifting and fleshed out. Mono’s influence here is more prevalent, as their classic nigh-deafening climax is brought into the mix. Takaakira Goto and Yoda’s guitar work is exceptional as always, with the signature tremolo picking giving a certain flair to the song. The crashing cymbals of Yasunori Takada only further add to the bombastic nature of the chaotic eruption of sound. Soft piano keys send the piece off, as it seamlessly blends into the fourth, and penultimate track. The fourth track is very much like the first two. In a way, it’s sort of like the “eye of the storm.” After the dramatic climax of the preceding song, the track sort of returns to the more lurid, mellow sound.
As with the “eye of the storm”--the period of calm--things once again pick back up, and with the same ferocity as before. The fifth and final track is unlike everything before it, but also retains every aspect of each song. To put it simply, the fifth track is stunningly remarkable, and one of the most incredible pieces I have ever heard. At nearly twenty minutes in length, the song is an impressive suite, touching upon each and every single emotion that Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain
has been crafting thus far. It’s the most sweeping piece, consisting of a massive build-up to an even more massive climax. It begins with the simply piano chords, added by an expressive cello part. The other instruments (violins, guitars, etc..) enter in and the song continues to pick up momentum. When the Maeda enters in with the prominent violin, the song heads right in to the explosion of sound. Every little melody found in the twenty minute monster seems to be playing at once, but with much more volume, sounding like a furious whirlwind. Yet it is the last minute of the piece, and the album, that really is the most expressively beautiful part. A very small string ensemble plays, and it just sort of, well, ends
. Its neither happy nor sad, but rather, a mixture of emotions. It’s as if that person mentioned earlier, moments away from taking their own life, has accepted their end, and embraced it with relief as well as with sadness.
It’s truly a daunting task to actually describe Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain
. Not many will find it welcoming, as in all honesty, it isn’t
. Admittedly, it’s easier to interject yourself into a happier, more uplifting piece of music, as for most of us, it is much more relatable. Feelings like ”love” and “joy” are more comforting, more beautiful, in that these are emotions we cling to, emotions we feel better thinking about. However, Mono and World’s End Girlfriend have found beauty in uncertainty and depression; grace in the darkest of a human’s soul. For that, Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain
manages to be something extraordinary, and an album that is truly unforgettable.