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Music

POP 09: MONO at La Tulipe

Posted by Christine / October 5, 2009

20091004-mono.jpg (Attention: Do not read if you are a MONO fan and missed their POP Montreal show at La Tulipe last Thursday, this article will only serve to inspire further glowering over the missed opportunity, motivate you to build a time machine, or astral project to a city where they will soon perform.)

Last Thursday, haggard as all hell, I slouched myself into my battered old trench coat, put on some garishly sparkly gloves I found lying around, and braved the cold (simply unreasonable for this time of year) on my way to what would prove to be one of the best performances I've seen all year.

MONO, hailing from Japan, have been playing their tech-heavy, doom and gloom, instrumentally-layered style of indie-rock since 1999. MONO's years of experience are apparent in their overall, disciplined approach, and near-perfect execution of each song. Their physical presence onstage was relatively understated; with each band member leaning slightly forward, allowing long, dark hair to obscure facial features, while swaying subtly, almost in unison.

However, what makes MONO avoid being all-business, are moments of sheer emotional involvement, evidenced best by Takaakira Goto's floor-crouching and fist-pounding to the most climactic parts of the music. The musicians' ability to get wrapped up in their own musical frenzy definitely fostered a rather communal sense of appreciation and freedom of emotional expression. I observed several crowd members shutting their eyes to the music, bobbing their heads along with zealous fervor, and at one point, one of my friends could not help but tackle me with a heartfelt hug.

This is the effect of MONO's live set -a thing I like to refer to as 'the heart swells.' There is no real way for me to explain this without sounding rather odd or terribly pretentious, but I find that, when listening to bands with an uncanny ability to create a slow build-up, leading to bursts of loud, layered sequences, I tend to allow myself to be emotionally drawn in, more closely than any other style of music. This might be linked to feelings of anticipation and release, hard-wired in us, somehow. To give a clearer sense of what I mean, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós, A Silver Mt. Zion (now: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band), Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, and Do Make Say Think are good examples of bands that inspire 'the heart swells.' Am I a raving lunatic, or have you experienced this as well?

Let's get back down to Earth. I must admit that I have the biggest girl-crush on Tamaki Kunishi, who, among other feats, was able to transition from keys to bass in the middle of a song (dear Lord, I want to be her). Admiration for Kunishi was backed-up by a friend at my side, who, right before the show began, leaned in and whispered this gem, "Prepare to be launched into a musical Odyssey, also, I like the girl bassist."

MONO's set was indeed an Odyssey of sorts; a lengthy journey of sound (and I mean lengthy, with some songs lasting about ten minutes) that enabled listeners to climb high mountains of layered melodies, and later, dive into shallow solo sequences. Among the songs they played were, "Ashes In The Snow" and "Follow The Map," both off their latest album, Hymn to the Immortal Wind however, MONO also played songs from their older albums, such as "Halo," off their 2003 album, One Step More and You Die.

Another impressive thing to mention about MONO is the sheer quantity of musical instruments alive at their fingertips: guitar, bass, drums, synthesiser, glockenspiel, and keys. With these instruments, MONO is able to, for example, contrast the soft, dollhouse pinging of the glockenspiel with the harsh, buzzing reverb of the guitar. Thus, truly remarkable is their capacity to transition from sounds connoting innocence to hard, chaotic sequences without it sounding misplaced.

However, MONO keeps fans on their toes by ending some songs abruptly, from loudest of loud to absolute, haunting silence. The ability for a band to surprise their audience, while still retaining a sense of musical cohesion is a delicate and valuable skill, one that, for me, is a mark of great talent. In a simpler sense, you can also measure the success of a show based on how long the fans clap for, and you better believe that fans at La Tulipe clapped a very long time following each epic opus performed by MONO.

Those arriving early for the show got to see Georgia's Maserati perform a psychedelic twist on instrumental post-rock. While the band includes a staggering six members, they stick to the classic rock combo of bass, drums and guitar (doubling-up on bass and housing a total of three guitarists).

Image from MONO's MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/monojp


Discussion

10 Comments

Jer / October 5, 2009 at 02:00 pm
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Great review. And yes, heart swells are all over post-rock. Maybe that should be the new genre name. Heart-swell rock.
Greg / October 5, 2009 at 04:40 pm
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Band name: Teen Heart Swell. Or one better, Whale Heart Swell.
Christine / October 6, 2009 at 06:47 pm
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Thanks Jer.
Oh man, 'Whale Heart Swell' has a certain phonoaesthetic appeal. I dig it.
Antonio / February 4, 2015 at 04:13 am
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So good to know that your vision is fine. I'm 52 and have just sratted using my first bifocals.The eyeglasses collection makes a fine subject for black and white images. Really a fun set of pictures. David/ Houston Monochrome
kanchipuramsarees / January 25, 2019 at 04:47 am
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kanchipuramsarees / January 25, 2019 at 04:47 am
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herbal powder / January 25, 2019 at 04:47 am
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