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Mono -- Holy Ground: NYC Live


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#1 Andy Whitman

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 08:04 AM

Nothing against Jonsi and Sigur Ros, but I'll take the portentous bombast of his band's early music any rainbow-filled day over the twee flutterings and cooings of his current solo album. Sigur Ros' influence over the post-rock landscape is incalculable, and during the past decade a host of celestial warriors has stormed the heavenly gates, with mixed results. The basic post-rock formula -- the pensive, glacially slow buildup to a pounding, roaring catharsis -- is now something of a cliche, and it's hard to imagine any band achieving an artistic breakthrough given the tired trappings of the framework. And that makes the Japanese post-rockers Mono, and their new album Holy Ground: NYC Live, such a surprising and welcome triumph.

For seven albums Mono has consistently delivered cinematic post rock, minus the Hopelandic whalesong. They do it again here, but with a nicely nuanced twist. The 24-member Wordless Music Orchestra contributes beautifully shaded chamber music accompaniment to the sturm and drang, and that means that these long, long songs -- most of them in the 12 to 15 minute range -- are just as captivating during the glacial buildups as they are during the big, cathartic payoffs. The 9 live tracks, spanning 80 minutes, are primarily taken from the band's great 2008 studio album Hymn to the Immortal Wind, but there are a couple surprising choices as well, including two from the band's 2004 collaborative re-mix album New York Soundtracks. The classical/post-rock hybrid is such an obviously fitting stylistic marriage that it's surprising that it hasn't been tried more frequently. Sigur Ros, with their collaborations with string quartet Amiina, have beautifully explored the quiet side of the equation. But Holy Ground takes in the full sonic gamut, and the results are everything one could hope for -- brooding, serene, explosively powerful, and never less than lovely.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 27 April 2010 - 09:49 AM.


#2 Greg P

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 09:38 AM

It's no secret that I love this band and the new album is fantastic. There's a wonderful energy to live Mono, as evidenced in their previous doc/concert DVD "The Sky Remains the Same as Ever" and dozens of great YouTube clips. Every post-rock band on the planet does the surging, climactic roar thingy, and Mono probably does it better than anyone. But what truly impresses me about them are their tunes and more sublime, hushed moments here like "Where Am I" or "2 Candles, 1 Wish". This balancing act of apocalyptic droning and quiet, ornate guitar lines and strong compositions is unique to them. Just exquisite.

This song, from a January show, isn't on the album, but skip to 2:23 for a taste of this distinct, hypnotic beauty. You get nearly 4 mins before the buildup and about 6 before all hell breaks loose. Reminiscent of Floyd's "Saucerful of Secrets"


Edited by Greg P, 27 April 2010 - 09:46 AM.


#3 opus

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Posted 02 May 2010 - 08:53 AM

You can watch the trailer for the DVD here.

Edited by opus, 02 May 2010 - 08:54 AM.


#4 opus

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 03:13 PM

I'm listening to Holy Ground: NYC Live right now, and it's awesome, and I don't use that word glibly. It's awe-inspiring, and the string arrangements lend an even more majestic air to the proceedings. For example, the gentle swells of strings on "Halcyon (Beautiful Days)" nearly bring me to tears.

Can't wait to watch the DVD performance.

#5 opus

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 10:40 AM

Well nuts... I just found out that Mono and The Twilight Sad played in Omaha, which is about an hour away from me, last week. I've been listening to Holy Ground quite a bit lately -- it feels oddly fitting given all of the news about ecological disasters and potential war -- and was just thinking about how much I'd love to see them live. Guess I'll just have to settle for the DVD performance -- and be sure to stay more up-to-date on the Omaha concert scene.

I was talking to one of my co-workers about why I find Mono's music so affecting. On paper, they don't really do anything too different from, say, Godspeed, Explosions In The Sky, et al. However, there's a sentimentality to Mono's music that I don't find with those aforementioned bands. Indeed, if you were to strip away the louder-than-loud climaxes and guitar crescendos, their music might be borderline sappy. But the two aspects of their music -- the bombastic and epic side and the sublime, sentimental side -- perfectly temper, shape, and inform each other.

I love this band in a way that I've never really loved all of the other post-rock acts (e.g., Godspeed, Sigur Rós, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky).

#6 Greg P

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 11:20 AM

I was talking to one of my co-workers about why I find Mono's music so affecting. On paper, they don't really do anything too different from, say, Godspeed, Explosions In The Sky, et al. However, there's a sentimentality to Mono's music that I don't find with those aforementioned bands. Indeed, if you were to strip away the louder-than-loud climaxes and guitar crescendos, their music might be borderline sappy. But the two aspects of their music -- the bombastic and epic side and the sublime, sentimental side -- perfectly temper, shape, and inform each other.

I love this band in a way that I've never really loved all of the other post-rock acts (e.g., Godspeed, Sigur Rós, Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky).

They actually do choose a slightly different melodic route than those aforementioned bands, and that sets them apart in my book "Moonlight" on "You are There" springs to mind. Mono uses a wider array of harmonic colors, if you will, and this gives the music more depth and spaciousness. My main gripe with most post-rock is the lousy writing-- two or three-chord songs, over a repetitive, chiming riff. Build. Fade in more distortion. Then repeat. Album after album (see: Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky)

I'm convinced the focus on actual songs and melody is what led the dill weeds at Pitchfork to refer to "Hymn to the Immortal Wind" as a post-rock Celine Dion.

#7 opus

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 03:22 PM

I'm convinced the focus on actual songs and melody is what led the dill weeds at Pitchfork to refer to "Hymn to the Immortal Wind" as a post-rock Celine Dion.

:blink:

#8 opus

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 10:05 AM

Mono's new album, For My Parents, will be released on September 4. And if the teaser below is any indication, it'll be more of the same orchestral post-rock, which is A-OK in my book.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weZLy-_ncUg

#9 Greg P

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 12:58 PM

Mono's new album, For My Parents, will be released on September 4. And if the teaser below is any indication, it'll be more of the same orchestral post-rock, which is A-OK in my book.

Can't wait! This little, minimalist riff seems primed and ready for detonation.

Edited by Greg P, 20 June 2012 - 12:59 PM.


#10 Greg P

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 07:42 PM

New streaming track!!!

#11 Greg P

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Posted 05 August 2012 - 08:30 PM

A 12-minute track, from their forthcoming album, has a video too , The video is awe-inspiring-- staggeringly beautiful and haunting. But the tune itself is.... (oh god why?)... a complete bust.

Man. I'm afraid this is one that time is just not going to help. There's so much wrong with this track-- the composition, arrangement and production-- I hardly know where to begin. I sincerely hope the rest of the album doesn't sound like this..

#12 opus

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 03:50 PM

Pitchfork's review is pretty spot on:

On their latest album, For My Parents, there isn't much juice remaining in it: You can anticipate every single dynamic shift in its five compositions, which is not typically an asset for instrumental music meant to take you on an emotional journey. There isn't much of a journey to be taken on For My Parents; the music doesn't develop, darken, or tell a story so much as it expands and deflates like a balloon. Trying to engage actively with it, to search its contours with your mind, is like poking a soap bubble.

So far, I've found the album pretty meandering and directionless, especially compared to Hymn to the Immortal Wind.

Still hoping to see them in concert later this month, though. Maybe it works better in a live setting.

#13 Greg P

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 08:09 PM

100% agreed with the Pitchfork review.

It sounds like Mono got a little too big for their britches after the success of Hymn and the live DVD. They've always excelled at taking minimalist riffs and melodies and using repetition and tsunami-volume swells to overwhelm the senses. Even when the songs didn't in actuality have a lot of substance, this strategy has consistently worked well.

I'm not sure if they tried to prove themselves with this varied harmonic approach, more strings, key changes during crescendos (a most dangerous endeavor... See: Every 1970's Barry Manilow ballad for proof) , etc... If you take away the distorted guitars, it often sounds like really lame and generic big budget-soundtrack music.

Edited by Greg P, 10 September 2012 - 08:15 PM.


#14 Justin Hanvey

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 05:54 PM

I'm impressed by the musical tastes of people on this board. Mono is probably my most favorite post rock band. Listening to Hymn To The Immortal Wind on vinyl is quite the experience. Anyways, I like their new one For My Parents. But then I'm a huge post rock fan so I love even the crappy stuff.

#15 Greg P

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Posted Yesterday, 06:58 AM

The new double album releases tomorrow and I'm streaming the whole thing right now. Whew. What a relief. The band seems to have done a complete u-turn on the road to schmaltz. No strings at all on this album and more of the basic elements that worked so wonderfully with them before. I'm only about halfway thru, but it's very sweet so far.