Japanese experimentalists MONO are a band that have been in my periphery for roughly two decades. I’ve heard their name, was aware of their releases, and have had people extolling their virtues to me for what seems like forever. I kept thinking ‘One of these days I’ll have to check them out’. The fact that their discography is massive and daunting, the fact that they’re instrumental (not that I have any issues with instrumental bands, Karma To Burn is one of my all-time favorites) coupled with the fact they’re routinely described as ‘post-rock’ made me put them way on the back burner.
Well, now the time has finally come to dive into a MONO release. Pilgrimage Of The Soul is their 11th studio album, and it’s as expansive, and epic as their previous records have been described. MONO’s stated goal is to transcend genre, and create a mood, and emotions with their sound. They have accomplished both with Pilgrimage Of The Soul. The record is vast, and expansive, songs flow from one to the next, with minimal effort, as the band’s noted dynamics are on full display throughout the albums eight songs.
Opener Riptide offers an example of said dynamics slowly twinkling into consciousness, before the band explode with a cacophony of guitars and drums. Riptide lives up to its name and is the ‘heaviest’ song on the record. Imperfect Things gives me the impression of an early morning sunrise, a light wash of synths bathe the listener before being jarred awake by bassist Tamaki Kunishi, and drummer Dahm Majuri Cipolla harsh rhythms. Guitarist and band leader Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto applies some nice lead work over it all.
Everything is crystal clear and repeat listens will reward the listener with all the different layers to each song…
Heaven In A Wild Flower sounds just like the songs title, with, multiple layers of airy, pleasant synth, whereas To See A World finds the band, while experimenting, playing rock, with Taka’s guitar the perfect vehicle for MONO to explore the emotions they seek to convey on this track.
Innocence finds the band really building the track from an ever so faint synth to a roaring climax while The Auguries rides Taka’s guitar and Cipolla’s rolling percussion to a simmer throughout, I’m expecting a bring-down-the-house climax, but it doesn’t come as MONO show just enough restraint to give the song a sense of tension. Hold Infinity In The Plam Of Your Hand also sounds exactly like the title, displaying the breadth of emotion that MONO have been routinely hailed for using the entire twelves minutes to reach their destination. Closer And Eternity In An Hour is a piano/synth piece that wraps the record up well.
Pilgrimage Of The Soul sounds fantastic thanks in part to legendary producer Steve Albini. His well-known drum sound is on display amidst all the other affects and instrumentation. Everything is crystal clear and repeat listens will reward the listener with all the different layers to each song. Going into this review, knowing of MONO but never having listened to them, I found Pilgrimage Of The Soul to be exactly as I imagined it would be, bearing all the applicable, oft-used descriptions for MONO. Adjectives like epic, expansive and emotional are all fitting, and MONO turned out to be all they were advertised to be. A cool release, by a unique band.
Scribed by: Martin Williams