Review Summary: Balance and contrast
Push music forward? Eh. Any conscious inclination to deliver a masterpiece will fail choked in its own scorn. A desire to break down established barriers very often comes from an intrinsic need to prove one's eclecticism. The problem with such an attitude comes from the lack of space left to music per se. Controlling a flow of ideas is almost impossible, and the task becomes even more difficult when we try to give a precise direction to our subconscious. The first prehistoric dudes weren't trying to predict the future of music when they banged two dirty pebbles. They just felt it was right, so they did it.
Chicago-based Monobody also made a point in privileging the subconscious. If it sounds good, then it's good. There's no need in forcing yourself to bewilder an audience when the confluence of all your influences is original enough to leave the congregation in awe. The group considers each of its members as a circle in a Venn diagram whose intersection regroups all of their influences to form the unique sound of Monobody.
Constructs of genre limit a musician in crafting his own music. Here, a lot of different styles are thrown into the music, the only condition being that, overall, it sounds good. So there's math rock, jazz fusion, prog and even some tech metal in the blender? That would make for an overlong genre. In a sense, this is basically what they strive to be: an unclassifiable band. As one member put it during their Audiotree interview/show, most rock clubs would call their music jazz, and most jazz clubs would call them rock. With so many influences, how do you make sure they can work together without one style taking precedence over the other? The answer lies in the instinctive approach the band chose to develop. During the same Audiotree session, the band hints that their music comes from the guts, not the mind. This subconscious method is what makes the band’s technical prowess approachable.
Because first and foremost, all musicians here know damn well how to play their respective instruments. The jazz technicality at work here is but a way to construct melodies that match the rhythms: the musicians' instrumental capability is at the service of enjoyability. The two basses weave together an intricate rhythmic web from which the frantic drums expand the stretch, allowing the dialoguing keys and guitars to lure catchy melodies. What would be the point of building polyrhythmic grooves if impenetrability was the music's main characteristic? Monobody understood this paradigm and made sure to provide a gratifying payoff to those wanting to dive into their soundscape. Raytracing
is indeed designed to be as aesthetically pleasing to the music pleb as it is scholarly satisfying to the jazz nerd. Balance is thus a key word to describe the band's music.
Another sobriquet suiting Monobody’s music is contrast. For when an album is constantly heavy or crazy, it ends up never feeling truly heavy or ever crazy as all sense of change is lost. A good example is opener "Ilha Verde", where a serene moment can immediately be followed up by a crushing metal mayhem. The compositions institute rising kaleidoscopes and craggy nuances moving in unison into an epic climax that, for sure, will explode into a resounding detonation. And then it stops. Brutally. Now another configuration is exhibited, embarking all instruments into another playful yet methodical odyssey. Although it might seem disappointing that the music never ends where you expect it to, build-ups should be appreciated here in spite of any conclusion. They do not serve anything apart from themselves.
With many build-ups and tempo changes, the longer tracks encapsulate everything the band is capable of achieving. For example, intrinsic heaviness already was present in the band's music, but here they pushed this aspect forward to deliver almost djenty breakdowns. They chose to be as compact as possible so the longest tracks work as suites. Another 10-minute epic, "Echophrasia" takes inspiration from the prog fusion greats to display different passages going from tech metal to cosmic interlude, without ever losing its cohesiveness. Balance and contrast can also be found within closer "Opalescent Edges" where proggy synths make a spacey appearance among jazzy mazes.
With such a complex layering of influences, two dirty words come to mind. We've all heard or read so many times the use of "controlled chaos" to describe a band's music. While this definition seems like a lazy one to chronicle a soundscape so difficult to grasp, it oddly feels accurate for Monobody's music. An amalgamation of so many genres could easily turn into a cacophonous experience. Yet, everything here is under control so the listening experience remains pleasing.
The record however remains difficult at first glance. What distinguishes this album from the previous one is its opaqueness. Repeated visits are mandatory to appreciate the songwriting, delightfully revealing itself while challenging one's expectations. The subtle math rock shifts in tempo start to make sense once the structure is understood by the listener. What Raytracing
loses in immediacy, it gains in adventurous compositions. Another big change from the self-titled record is the crisper production that grants a distinct place to each instrument, from the discrete yet impacting drum fills to the tapping basses. Mind you, the first album's mix was neat, but it's now improved by a will to allow each detail to shine. Still, it does sound more chaotic than the debut upon first listens, being more ambitious but less innocent and lush. Another minor drawback is the record's addictiveness: it might be because I discovered the band with the Self-Titled
, but I don't have the same relentless will to replay the album, again and again.
nevertheless remains an impressive display of technicality and composition. Monobody braid a rich network of sounds, all enhanced by the preceding one and enriching the next. Always exploring new territories, the band recently finished recording their newest record, and one can only hope their blend of oh-so-many genres is going to be processed with as much care as their first two albums. They might not push music forward, but they’ll sure change your own definition of genre-bending music.