Review Summary: Mono no awareMonument du non-être & Mouvement du non-vivant
, situated in the centre of a Venn diagram of post- genres, draws on what would seem to be two disparate elements: firstly, Guy Debord's Marxist critique La société du spectacle
, the album's explicit conceptual foundation; secondly, the Japanese notion of mono no aware
, that exquisite sadness about the passing of things. (That being said, the latter is not a component of the album so much as an explanatory framework regarding its poignancy.)
La société du spectacle
claims that all experiences directly lived have become distanced from us, replaced instead by mere representations. The concept of the spectacle contains a social dimension: “it is a social relation between people, mediated by images.” But the spectacle also serves to separate, to alienate through the affirmation of existing social stratifications. In its particular forms, the spectacle appears as propaganda, advertisements, even the direct consumption of entertainment; "the more [the spectator] recognizes himself in the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own existence and desires." The spectacle's pervasiveness suppresses critical thought, means that the spectator can never feel as if he is truly himself. Debord also characterizes merchandise as a form of the spectacle – merchandise acquires a false value in this inverted reality, and propagates itself through constantly creating more deprivation for it to fill.
Interestingly, Monument du non-être...
practically feels tailor-made to disappear and to induce longing, wistfulness. A sense of loss and deprivation abounds, even as it is initially unclear what it concerns; certainly, the album plays on a constant tension between pain and composure. One gets the sense that careful handling, from both musician and listener, was necessary
: each moment seems fragile, on the brink of disintegration, and paradoxically hits harder for it. Behind the instantiation of every delicate, bittersweet melody lies an incredible amount of restraint and deliberation. Though the album is carefully calculated, its sentiments still feel genuine; it avoids the overwrought, though proudly wears its thoughtfulness on its sleeve.
Now, there is a way to interpret the album through the lens of Debord's critique: the album's poignancy could be derived from realizing inauthenticity and the disconnect of the self, is in part composed of the grief erupting from the thought that one may never truly escape the spectacle. The sporadic nature of the vocals reminds one of a deeply lonely, isolated human presence. In effect, the world of loneliness painted by the album is itself isolated, even as it technically exists within this
world – the unpredictable ebbs and flows don't evoke the otherworldly so much as an impressionistic account of what is actual. The lyrics describe the progressive loss of reason, but in reverse order – "Le dogme du simulacre" begins by claiming that "there isn't even reason anymore", before then lamenting that we are losing reason. Created is the sense that one lacks all grounding: spatial, temporal, even to the self.
But I think things turn out to be simpler. What the album makes us mourn is nothing less than its own exquisite beauty. Lifted by airy, ethereal production, the three guitars of Monument du non-être...
shimmer and form gauzy layers that linger, fade out gently. The sparse but critical moments of collapse draw on unexpectedly hoarse vocals and crushing feedback; some climaxes are followed by lengthy denouements that re-establish composure. Ambient effects, such as piano or synthesizer, haunt at a distance. Unlike De Fragments
, the band's previous release, the songs here are far more amorphous, still drawing from simple motifs but never settling into a groove; each composition moves with purpose, towards places unseen yet felt. The album, treading cautiously, feels foreboding but not anxious; it is shrouded in mist, yet also tinted by colourful hues.
I don't know if it was ever a deliberate choice, but the clash between Guillaume Chamberland's roughhewn howls and the refined, delicate instrumentals really grounds Milanku's genuineness: on one hand, the evocation of an everyman, and on the other, a sort of cultivated sophistication that might have seemed overly posh and contrived if it weren't for the band's fine balancing act. Indeed, I couldn’t help but integrate the band’s visual aesthetic into the music – the album photos and promotional material reflect a painstakingly constructed image of chic-meets-despondence, complete with muted colour palettes and fashionable cigarette-smoking. As deadly cigarettes meet exquisiteness, the notion of impermanent beauty is further invoked – such a luxury, to be able to indulge in the ephemeral, and even to speed up its demise.
Perhaps Monument du non-être...
is insidious, even cruel – in its world, we never manage to cup beauty in our hands, instead being forced to forever watch it perish at a distance. This could be a form of constant deprivation that merchandise (maybe even in the form of the music itself？) claims to be able to fill. But mono no aware
states that loss is part of beauty, or at the very least, a way to augment one's appreciation of it; and so, perhaps Monument du non-être...
is instead sublime acceptance.