Review Summary: A little more digestible, a little less genuine.
The word ‘catharsis’ has been described as ‘the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from strong or repressed emotions’. Often this process ensues a personal growth and a sense of fulfillment hitherto lacking. A catharsis is a rare occasion in one’s life, we only get so much of these personal and emotional growth-spurts in our lifetime, and looking for one usually feels like a futile attempt to gain control over one’s life. To me that has always felt forced. In my personal experience, a catharsis is something that finds you, not the other way around. Although it is an incredibly personal thing, some artists find ways to put this emotional epiphany into their art, be it words, painting or in MONO’s case, music.
MONO as a band have proven to understand how to put their emotional journey into their music. The best example for this is their high watermark ‘Hymn To The Immortal Wind’. It is a journey that, even without words to (literally or metaphorically) tell a story, feels almost too personal in its delivery. You could taste the energy and emotion that went into creating each of those songs and the result is something that made it a classic in the post-rock world.
One of the crux factors in creating an emotional journey resulting in a cathartic experience is that it has to be earned. It’s the equivalent of creating a truly moving and emotional movie. You can’t expect viewers to feel something at the death of a character when you have not given said character depth, and depth takes time and growth. It is this same sense that is applied to some of the greatest music ever written, and it is this same sense that MONO has applied to their music since it’s inception. Melodies take their time to build and grow, intensity multiplies and eventually explodes into a constrained chaos that leaves the listener with, interestingly enough, hope, though the music itself is mostly melancholic in nature.
This long intro is to describe both my likes and my biggest problems with their latest release, Nowhere Now Here. For people who enjoy this style of music (connoisseurs if you will), there is definitely a lot to enjoy here. Songs like ‘After You Comes the Flood’ and the title song ‘Nowhere, Now Here’ are full to the brim with what makes MONO such a standout band in post-rock: beautiful charming melodies, a melancholic and almost nostalgic atmosphere, and of course, climaxes that reach to mt. Fuji. And yet, this time around they decided to try to contain the same experience in a more compact package.
For the first time songs stay under the 10 minute mark more than they surpass it. And that leads to my first problem with the album. As I stated before, in order to join in the emotional roller-coaster, you need to spend enough time with the often simple melodies to become intoxicated by them, yet on ‘Nowhere, Now Here’, some of those melodies don’t last long enough to achieve this effect, resulting in them just being what they are: simple melodies.
The second problem I have with this album is more difficult to put to words, but it has to do with authenticity. Remember when I said that a catharsis is something that is very finite in its quantity? Well the natural question that arises is how often you can put this into your art without it becoming insubstantial and spurious. It’s this feeling that leaves a little bit of a bitter aftertaste that I had not expected going into this.
Yet all in all, it’s a small dent in an otherwise excellent record, because there is simply enough to enjoy to overshadow the problems I have with it. Though it will not change the heart of haters, it may bring new appreciators into the fold with its shorter and more easily digestible material. If you have enjoyed one of their previous records, this will definitely not disappoint, but it remains a far cry from the excellence that made them one of the most important bands in the post-rock spectrum.