17 November 2014

Mono - Rays of Darkness





For reasons which will become apparent very soon, this introduction is going to be a little repetitive.  This is the second of two reviews about the Japanese shoegazing band, Mono.  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.  The first of the two albums I reviewed was 'The Last Dawn' (cleverly linked here), which was a good album, if not a great record.  As stated in that other review, this is the first album that Mono have released which does not feature strings or a full orchestra.  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.  Now we are onto part two of this trip on this long, but short album - still 35 minutes, but only four tracks.

Starting the album is the thirteen minute plus “Recoil, Ignite”, which has a gentle beginning; but there is a sense of urgency in the playing with the second guitar strumming along at a faster pace to the slow and lingering style of the lead guitar.  Slowly the bass and drums are introduced to the number, which leads to a build in anticipation a-la Rocky Horror (you can imagine if there was a dramatic pause that Tim Curry would want compensation).  Much like lots of shoegazing music, it is the build that is important – it is much the same with this song.  But the lack of strings and orchestra does not harm this song, in fact it elevates for me.  As Mono has more or less always had strings to maximise the atmosphere, it is refreshing to see the band use the basic instrumentation for the tune.  When you have the first release, it has a feeling akin to early Agalloch for me.  Once the first wave has rested, the build starts all over again; the band do this without repeating the original step-by-step of the first section and it feels just as rewarding when they hit that euphoric moment.  Even then, the tune is moving on and it never really rests even with the end draws near.  The second track “Surrender” does not a long build, it is opens straight away with a gentle crash of guitars and keeps the riff repeating until the lonely trumpet beings a distant calling in the background.  Even then it does not really move in any direction, for the most part; until you hear the feedback start to rise at the end of the song when the riff itself slows.  It is a decent number, but a strange one to following “Recoil, Ignite”.

The penultimate track is called “The Hand That Holds The Truth”, with fleeting glimpse of guitar sounds and you are wondering what the band are going to reveal to us.  Fear not though, as the lonesome guitar soon starts.  With no backing the song starts to take form as a second guitar joins in with a secondary and complimentary riff that dances around, then a third riff comes in which dominates the song along with a bass guitar holding the rhythm by the scruff of the neck and making sure it does not go anywhere.  More and more layers are add onto the track so instead of being one simple riff, it forms a much larger and expansive number.  Then it is gone, it goes back to the original simple patterns before the noise explodes with actual singing/shouting.  It is a brilliant song that keeps the listener engaged from beginning to finish.  Ending the album is “The Last Rays” which begins in static and white noise.  Sounding like an attack from a swarm of insects (or any creature from a horror movie you care to name), the band are in full Boris mode here and it is quite unsettling for the listener for the opening half of the song.  Then there is a drop in the noise until it starts to rise again but with a gentle guitar cutting through every now and again. The more the song progresses, the more chaotic it becomes.  This is not what people will call a traditional song, but more of an art piece.  Of course I love this sort of music/noise and after all the glorious and soulful sounds that this band has released over the years; it is strangely refreshing that this number ends this album.


It feels a little weird to have two contrasting pieces from the same band, but that is the satiation.  Firstly, I would like to sum up this album.  ‘Rays Of Darkness’ is the best of the two releases, being unleashed from the orchestra has made the band rely on other tools in the musical arsenal and think outside of the box.  Only one of the tracks does not quiet live up to the album as a whole, even then it is a good tune; so I would think (and hope) that this is a direction that the band follow in the coming years.  However, it is also because "Surrender" was not as good as the others that this album does not get a perfect mark (considering it is 25% of the album - sorry).  After listening to both of the albums, I can see why they released them as two separate records.  If they were mixed together or released as two separate sides, it would have been doing both records a disservice.  It is a brave mood for any band to release two albums at the same time, not many people can purchase both records at the same time.  However, I would recommend people to do just that.  This is a wonderful project from Mono and the deserve all the acclaim that is coming their way at this time.


8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart


Top track – The Hand That Holds The Truth



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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