There are a lot of perceptions made about post-rock. Some call it pretentious, unapproachable, some even dare to call it dull. And the fans of the genre don't exactly help either, most of who slate the genre's critics, saying "They just don't get it". Either could be right, but what you cannot deny is that, with honesty and integrity, Mono have produced something so special here, that it could stun both critics and fans into silence. This is, in short the work of geniuses. You will not hear a more rewarding, challenging or uplifting record, all year.
Those who've previously heard Mono will know that their sound predominately is quite tranquil, but dark and moody, rarely exceeding heavy and often using single, tremolo guitar effects. And for a good proportion of this album, that is true, but it's used to much more dramatic effect. When Mono do finally turn the amplifiers up, it is not just thoughtless noise blasted out for the sake of it. It is just as intelligent, emotional and theatrical as the quieter moments; this is not pretentious Space-rock. Everything that happens in this album happens for a reason. "Yearning" for instance, sitting right in the middle of the album, explodes in energy and noise half way through the song (quite literally, it will make you jump the first couple of times you listen to it) and sends an ice age sliding down the back of your neck, as the thrilling cacophony of music Mono have created reveals itself.
Steve Albini's production of this album, however, makes it sound very dark and gloomy at times; you could be forgiven for thinking it was a Godspeed You! Black Emperor! album. Luckily though, this is saved by the music itself which manages to be as touching and fragile as say, Sigur Ros, who sit at the other end of the Post-Rock paradigm. The stunning bridge track "A Heart Has Asked For The pleasure" shows this wonderfully with its fairly simplistic structure and sound, which proves to be every bit as heart-warming and relaxing as the listener would hope it to be - providing a much needed break from the rest of the album's theatrics. The addition of orchestral instruments in this album also helps prove this new found fragility in Mono. "Are You There"" is a perfect example of this where it suddenly cuts into a very dark string section; probably the lowest point of the album as far as morale goes, but still remaining elegantly beautiful.
For such a rewarding and intelligent listen, it is perhaps hard to accept that this, completely instrumental quartet, with songs reaching 15 minutes, remain approachable and anything but alienating. It's more subtle than Sigur Ros' angelic, ethereal vocals and mood, but very much the same uplifting feeling, despite being so seemingly dark and aware. By the time finale "Moonlight" swings in, it is so full of swagger and confidence it is bound to leave nothing other than a huge grin on your face, as the album comes to an aware and dramatic, yet happy end. This album is very much like a really good movie; one that will stay in your heart long after you've watched it, one that will make you want to watch over and over again, one that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face by the end. In short, this is a masterpiece. The Japanese foursome has created something here that should be accepted as a classic. It does their live set some justice, which is an extremely difficult thing to do considering Mono are one of the most exciting and exhilarating live experiences in the world today. You'll smile, you'll cry, you'll relax, you'll fall in love; but most of all, you'll experience Mono, in what could be, their finest work.