11 November 2014

Mono - The Last Dawn

Mono is a band that has enthralled me for a long time, they seem to bring a new and interesting slant to shoegazing that is very refreshing and thankful from a different country instead of the UK.  Mono hail from Tokyo, Japan and were formed in 1999.  This is the first of two album to have been released in 2014.  This one is the more traditional Mono release which has strings involved, the other album 'Rays Of Darkness' (cleverly linked here) is their first to not have this type of backing.  Since the first moment I heard them, they have seemed to be unstoppable; but I do find it curious that they have released two separate albums instead of one double album.  But this will be discussed later on in the round up of both albums on the 'Ray Of Darkness' blog.  So lets see how this one fares....

First track “The Land Between Tides/Glory” is introduced with a gentle strumming and haunting solo that sends shivers up and down the spine.  Indeed, once the strings and bass are introduced to the number you start to get a sense of being lost in the woods; Mono are incredibly skilled in building the atmosphere for the listener which is something that they have continued with this album.  This is the longest track on this release and unlike a lot of bands who are treading a similar path, they do not rely on familiar patterns for the listener to cling onto; they have a style without it being a millstone around their neck.  The fact that even when the band does break the song around the six minute mark, they do not just leave a pause and then return to the main riff; instead they leave the tune with a pulse that guides the track home, with the feedback swimming around you and the piano slowly playing its mournful notes, mixed in with some sublime string work.  “Katana” is the second track of the album, following on from “The Land Between Tides/Glory” is does not strive to rock the boat at all.  It has similar pace due to the mature of the music and the piano keeps the band in check whilst its repetitive melody.  When the shoegazing, jangling riff for the midsection is introduced to proceedings thought, the band attempt to reach previous highest from other works.  It does not quiet reach those levels of tunes from ‘Hymn To The Immortal Wind’, but it does have a certain charm which has always been Mono’s strong suit.

“Cyclone” is the third track of the album and also the halfway point of the record.  It keeps up the melodic haunting imagery of the record and the atmosphere they conjure for this number is more apprehensive that the first two songs.  This could be due to the fact it has a bit more speed about it (in a given sense of the word – it is still as fast as an iceberg compared to many other artists), also the way the song has been constructed seems to be more intense with the song.  It feels as if you are in the middle of a storm swirling around and it is due to the musicianship on show that you can get lost in this type of number. Same could be said about "Elysian Castles" in a sense; the melodic and slow twisting path that it meanders on is not without charm.  However, it is also the weakest of the six tracks on offer on this record and there are not the usual layers which you expect from Mono to this song.  It is so simple, that you have no hidden depth to the number.

Penultimate track "Where We Begin" has an almost speedy feel about it, moving at a pace approaching slow and patient.  There is an almost military vibration to some sections of this song, it also feels like a blast of spring time sun in this early November gloom as I am typing this.  It immediately raised my mood and that is something I like about this band.  They can get an emotional reaction out of me when the world can be trying to do it differently.  The song starts from small beginnings and ends up with a roar like you get when you hit the ocean; this is everything the "Elysian Castles" was not.  Ending the album is the title track - "The Last Dawn".  Having lived with this track for a few weeks, the word I keep coming back to (as I have with most of the album as well) is mournful.  The feels like a precession towards the inevitable fate which awaits us all in one way or another, there is a resigned feeling to the song and a melon collie about it as well.  But it is not sad or full of anger, it is very accepting of its fate and it almost feels like a release; this song is a thoughtful and poignant way to end the album.

Now it might seem very short as the album is only six tracks long, but you still have over forty minutes of music on offer here.  This is the first of two recent releases from this band and I will give my views on the full project on the next review.  On an individual basis, all but one of the tracks work incredibly well and Mono are still a stunning prospect; however there was not the leap forward as on ‘Hymns To The Immortal Wind’.  It felt very contained and enclosed in its emotions; it was beautiful and stunning in places with various moments to wonder how the band got to that stage in the first place.  But it also had a cold and clinical feeling towards some of the numbers, it was a feeling that I cannot shake from my overall impression of the album.  For that reason, it is not the all conquering record; but it is still a beautiful piece of music to be approached with caution.

7 out of ten – This is good and worth checking out

Top track – Where We Begin

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the English version of the Mono website here

You can listen to (mostly) of the album on Spotify here

Here is a link for our Deezer users (same as Spotify, the first track is not available)

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