Review Summary: Cautiously Evolving
Repetition is a risky game in music. It either offers a hypnotic experience and progressively enhances a drawn-out moment of blissful catharsis to an emotional peak or it creates an uninteresting temperament where the constant recurrence of the same method inspires nothing bar a complete lack of originality. The latter extremity is often seen in the case of the most popular bands, however, their reputation often excuses them from negative critique, where their timeworn approach is disguised as ‘traditional’ in cheap ways such as “business as usual” or “just X being typical X”.
Mono encompasses everything about repetition- from the good to the bad and the risky grey area in between. Only, their risk factor is set even higher than other bands. Not only do each of their nine albums revolve around their fundamental sound of constructing layers of repetitious melodies and harmonies only to release at breaking point, but each song on their respective albums practices the exact same formula. Ironically, at this point, Mono’s music has become so repetitious that the once mesmerising, expansive and intensifying songs have become formulaic, predictable, repetitious- dull.
So, what do you do for your tenth album if you’re a band who has confined itself into a genre that relies heavily on repetition, who is one of the standard-bearers for that genre and whose best attribute has now become their worst enemy?
Well, there are a few things Mono showcases that increases a notable liveliness to their sound. Firstly, new drummer Dahm Majuri Cipolla’s intense drum explosions are far more prominent than the Japanese quartet’s past few releases. Nothing about Mono’s instrumentation can honestly be considered erratic but he does cast this sense of dare and capriciousness across some of the album’s emotional capstones, particularly in “After You Comes the Flood” that captures Mono’s fundamental liberating torrents of noise. Secondly, “Breathe” marks Tamaki’s first vocal output where her smooth whispers compliment the airy soundscape. Although this is only a minor variation at face value, the fact that they have chosen to do something new and uncommon marks a huge step forward in Mono’s potential. Likewise, Mono has also included synthesisers in “Nowhere Now Here”
. Whenever they are utilised in an otherwise conventional-sounding Mono song, like “Meet Us Where the Night Ends”, the additional layer of sound strikes a balance between futuristic divergence and accustomed practices in brilliant fashion.
Nevertheless, however subtly Mono incorporates these slight deviations from the norm, the fact still remains that “Nowhere Now Here”
can still be classified simply as ‘another Mono album’. “Far and Further” leads you into a false sense of expectation as the pendulous rhythm remains stationary and as the swelling guitars in the title track meander around orchestral instruments they suddenly deflate into a concave, anxious state where any feeling of liberation consequently crumbles. Cutting this track to this point would be a great and daring move for Mono but despite the band attempting to regain momentum and, what’s more, intensify it for another four minutes, it becomes difficult to differentiate the majority of these songs from the majority of Mono’s catalogue
Perhaps it was intended for the album to sound shy and quaint, which the production admittedly does a great job in reflecting, but as a whole “Nowhere Now Here”
just sounds passive. Overall, this is the sound of Mono’s deliberately cautious evolution. Dedicated fans of post rock and instrumental music will easily nestle into in the tried and tested techniques of this album; for other’s “Nowhere Now Here”
needs more fortitude to challenge the overwhelming fragility.