Review Summary: Mononoke is more an emotional journey than album, combining lush instrumentation and the sounds of woodland to create an intense listening experience that is soon to be forgotten
I like to think every contribution to every form of art tells a story. Hidden within the cracks or the imperfections of a painting; the liner notes of a record or between the scrawlings of a seasoned writer. "Mononoke" spills its' story via the music within, and within the scrawlings of its'
writer. It somehow speaks volumes while retaining perfect minimalism. It acts as a beautiful, twisted release of emotion - a still-image of the isolation that eventually affects all of us.
Mononoke is a solemn reflection on the past year or two and acts as the closing of a chapter of my life. At the beginning of this chapter, I made a grandiose, but ultimately ill-fated decision on impulse, for someone I once loved. As it turns out, it was a mostly disastrous and regretful decision. I found myself trapped in a parasitic, vindictive, and unhealthily codependent relationship. Escaping it and breaking the cycle of rekindling it was devastating, but allowed me to do a lot of self-reflection. Though, as a result of this relationship, I feel as though I've damaged myself almost irreparably and I'm still unsure if I'll ever fully recover. I've slowly been getting my life back together, but I've still lost a significant amount of time to this decision, and I feel permanently stunted in my growth as a human being...
Such is the still-image acting as the album cover perfectly demonstrating this isolation, taken in the lonely woods where the acoustic guitar(s) were recorded. This gives the LP a more grounded realism alongside its' ethereal catharsis: rain drops in the background, birds chirp and faint samples of a bustling Japanese village repeated backwards are heard throughout tracks like Samum
& A Chorus of Rust
. Rarely are there glimpses of alternative intstrumentation other than the lone guitar, accompanied by the nature overshadowing most of the tracks. These songs flow like movements in an orchestral composition, or a score to a melancholy silent film where every scene is the buildup to a tear-filled climax. Those climaxes do occur despite the sparse variety of instruments orchestrated by 'Matt': we are given huge banging drums, choir-esque vocals and rolling synths. Malady and Melody
plays out like a Godspeed! composition, and is easily the heaviest track on the record however does suffer from a slight misplacement in the track-listing. Track ordering aside, this album sounds so damn pretty. All of the seperate layers blend immensley well together and build-up to create such an intense atmosphere, even on the more down-tempo tracks. It sounds like an entire lifetime compressed to a 70 minute running time, filled to the brim with creative melodies, arpeggios and oriental influences.
However, this album is also one of catharsis; a culmination of spending a lot of time in the woods, surrounding myself with nature; reading a lot of books; delving into Japanese folklore and folk music, Icelandic neoclassical, ambient minimalism, and film scores; ruminating on personal failures and flaws, and my apparent lack of ambition; and the deep seasonal abyss I found myself unable to escape...
There is so much pain and injury packed into this thing, once you read Matt's story alongside the album like a lyric-sheet, you can really start to see the meaning behind each movement. This is more a fully-fledged emotional journey than a 15-song album, the songwriter has opened up his heart and allowed you to listen - its just up to you to hold the tears back.
"Autumn", Parts 1 & 2
"Tides Swell, the Moon Rises"
"A Chorus of Rust"
"Amongst the Cherry Blossoms"