Mono

Nowhere Now Here

Written by: AP on 12/05/2019 11:13:20

The body of work Mono has assembled over the course of their 20 years of existence has been marked by a process of perpetual movement. This is true on the microcosmic scale as well as on the macrocosmic scale, meaning that both the individual songs in Mono’s repertoire and the evolution of their songwriting approach can be divided into distinct phases of expansion and contraction. Both 2009’s “Hymn to the Immortal Wind” and 2012’s “For My Parents” saw the Japanese quartet incorporating grandiose orchestral elements to the classic post-rock sound of their first four albums, while things took a turn for the rawer and heavier on the subsequent “Last Dawn” and “Rays of Darkness” records of 2014 and culminated in the crushing follow-up “Requiem for Hell” in 2016. The time was thus ripe for Mono to stir their palette once again on this tenth and latest offering “Nowhere Now Here”, and the result is something as contrived as an amalgam of everything the band has attempted thus far.

An appropriate way to describe “Nowhere Now Here” is to liken it to passing storms, or perhaps the waves of an ocean surging and receding on the shoreline. Each swell in noise and volume is succeeded by a quieter passage, and after the dark clouds have gathered, they seem to always be punctured by rays of sunlight, giving rise to a feeling of optimism. On the opener “God Bless” Mono weep and mourn through sighs of brass and strings, building up tension and setting the tone for the soul-destroying “After You Comes the Flood”, its crashing cymbals and funereally wailing guitars wreaking utter devastation on the listener’s mood. It is one of the heaviest tracks Mono have ever written and permeated by a suffocating sense of desolation that renders the warm sheets of synth, flickers of clean tremolo guitar and soft singing by bassist Tamaki Kunishi in the subsequent (aptly titled) “Breathe” a welcome respite. Indeed, true to the band’s custom, there are conflicting emotions galore embedded into this opening segment, setting us up for the riveting study of contrasts in the songs to come. The titular “Nowhere, Now Here” continues to sustain the more uplifting tone, albeit it still subscribes to the overarching theme of melancholia that runs through the album. The cinematic melodies emanating from the guitars of Takaakira Goto and Hideki Suematsu in it have a profound sense of sadness about them, but they are set against a backdrop of symphonic flourishes that nonetheless evoke a cathartic sensation when the song reaches its breathtaking crescendo in the end.

Part of Mono’s modus operandi has always been to juxtapose their crescendos with periods of calm like the following “Far and Further”. But alongside “Parting” and “Funeral Song” later, these intermezzo-style pieces have a tendency to feel somewhat long drawn on “Nowhere Now Here”, lulling rather than mesmerising the listener with their muted introspection. Their heavy presence in the second half of the album makes the experience a bit uneven, albeit their anonymity does help both “Sorrow” and “Meet Us Where the Night Ends” stand out as monoliths. “Sorrow” lives up to its name with a tragic atmosphere and swathes of dramatic orchestration, before delivering one of the most spellbinding climaxes on the entire record, with Goto & Suematsu’s guitars wailing and soaring toward the sky amid electronic keystrokes as Dahm Majuri Cipolla’s drums kick up a racket. “Meet Us Where the Night Ends” then brings us out of the gloom with its more uplifting tone and a feeling of triumph that, in my opinion, renders it the perfect conclusion to the album. The true closer, “Vanishing, Vanishing Maybe” patiently winds things down instead of bowing out with a bang and as such it feels quite unfulfilling, with the only remarkable moment arriving in the shape of an elegant trumpet soliloquy.

Be that as it may, existing fans of Mono are likely to find “Nowhere Now Here” to be a satisfying addition to the band’s lauded repertoire; another riveting study of all things bittersweet. Where it falls a little short in my grade book is that it brings little new colour to their paintbrush, and feels more like a career retrospective than another step toward the post-rock immortality for which Mono is destined. Listen for a dose of tearfully beautiful and at times overwhelming instrumental music, but do not expect anything revolutionary from the Japanese masters this time.

8

Download: After You Comes the Flood; Nowhere, Now Here; Sorrow; Meet Us Where the Night Ends
For the fans of: Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, This Will Destroy You
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.01.2019
Temporary Residence Ltd.

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