You Are There
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|1. The flames beyond...|
|2. A heart has asked for the pleasure|
|4. Are you there?|
|5. The remains of the day|
Throughout their six-year career, MONO has ascended consistently in both popularity and critical acclaim, with record sales and live show attendance corresponding. If there is any chance of breaking that spell, it lies in You Are There, without a doubt the prime contender to unite the live and recorded worlds of MONO. Once again captured to tape by Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago, IL, the album extends the cinematic drama o 2003's Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined (also recorded by Albini), while surpassing the sinister heaviness of 2002's lauded One Step More and You Die. If Walking Cloud was a nuclear winter, then You Are There is the post-war rebirth; steeped in an ominous creation-via-destruction atmosphere not heard since Neurosis' landmark Enemy of the Sun defined the sound more than a decade ago.
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Of the year or so I've been listening to this band, I have never been able to bring myself to pick a favorite album. You Are There doesn't seem to make this any easier, as it is in many ways as strong as anything they have ever done. The songs within this album, not unlike their previous efforts, often build upon single repetitive chord progressions. On the surface this may seem incredibly boring, and in all likelihood would be to someone otherwise unfamiliar with this type of music. On the other hand, those diving into this album already knowing what to expect should be more than pleased.
It should be mentioned, however, that this album is far from just a few simple notes being played over and over again for an hour (oddly enough, this cd clocks in at exactly sixty minutes). "Yearning", which appeared on their '05 split with Pelican, fools you with it's first 7 and a half minutes of elegant picking and reverb-heavy strumming, only to crush you with a wall of distortion and noise after a brief upheaval of sullen ambience. Upon my first, and even second listen of this album, I literally jumped in my seat during this part. As indicated, this band clearly knows how to create more than just quiet melodies.
With that said, I must admit that the their more reserved moments are more enjoyable. It is incredible how much Mono seem to be capable of in even their shortest songs such as "The Remains of the Day". A lucid piano melody is played through the first third of the track over what seems to be an endless sea of crashing waves and simplistic string arrangements, all before giving way to the fading guitar ambience that this group has mastered so exquisitely. This ambience sets up the next, best, and last song on the album with great success.
Distant strumming is engulfed within a reflective keyboard arrangement before taking on a world of its own; and what an incredibly beautiful world it is. As previously mentioned, many of the tracks within this album are built upon repetitive chord progressions, often lasting many minutes at a time. One such occurance of this takes up the first three minutes of the track, changes for the next minute, and is then overlapped by one of the most beautiful guitar melodies I have ever heard. This melody continues slowly while being held together by a light drum pattern, until finally it is nearly absorbed (but not overtaken) by a cascading array of distortion and cymbals. I will not even bother trying to further explain this part of the album with words, as you must experience on your own to fully appreciate it.
If there are any faults that I can find with this album, I would say that a couple of the tracks aren't nearly as memorable as the rest. "A Heart Has Asked for the Pleasure" seems to just kind of exist and has yet to impress me after my sixth listen of the album. "Are You There?" is a full ten minutes long, but I'm left thinking that it could have been much better than it is, as it stands. Still, these aforementioned songs are in no way bad and could even be looked upon as mere precursors to the great songs that precede and follow them.
In just six years, this four piece has managed to create what have become worthy and even influential albums within their genre. With multiple (or even only a few) listens to You Are There, one would not be out of line in saying that Mono have done that very same thing yet again. After fully absorbing this album for more than a week, and never having been even remotely disappointed by an offering of theirs, I feel content in now stating that Mono are one of the five best post rock bands in the world.
Unless it is all about the sometimes very cliché titles, I just don't understand why Post-Rock has become a very taboo thing amongst music aficionados. If it has to do with anything, it must be the fact that songs are too long, they have often weirdly worded titles, and well they say nothing. But they often don't see the good side of post-rock: they can soundtrack feelings that you can never be able to express correctly in public. Plus, post-rock is a good way to prove that "actions speak louder than words". Also, the real post-rock has ways of binding rock music with the epic stretches of classical music, which brings us to our favorite post-rock culprits out of Japan MONO.
The one thing we can love about post-rock album is the fact that most of them have a concept that fits just fine. This album is usually for anyone who likes to make out feelings just by the sound of music, like I once did with the incredibly optimistic "Halcyon" from the shamelessly titled Walking Cloud, Deep Red Sky, Flag Flutters, and the Sun Shined. (Just the title to give a band like Lumen reason to think that post-rock is nothing more than boredom, and hush-hush.) The entire album also does something crazy in the music world, and uses the entire album as a way to soundtrack a day in a can, rather than just leave it all to feeling. Following in the footsteps of Mogwai, the opening song "The Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain" (better known as the sun) takes at least 3 minutes to set up an adventure, just so the tracks can be a little more independent as well as epic. "Flames" has a melancholy melody that suggests a deep and dark feeling leading to absolute self-rage, before subsiding enough to hit you again, making Mogwai's "Summer" look like "Ohio Is For Lovers". It also soundtracks the beam of light coming over the city so beautifully. A good example of a post-metal instrumental that has more to say than any emo or nu-metal band you ever came across in your life, and just the right volume of common emotion. Call it an emotion that next comes one of the two songs that will EVER meet single length called "The Heart Has Asked for the Pleasure", the song that to many may feel like joy or just plain morningtime. "Yearning" is the type of song that soundtracks appreciation and beauty before sneaking up behind you and kicking you to the ditch 7 and a half minutes later with the sound of sheer pessimism in the wires that keep the skin of your hearts intact. Translation: "Yearning" brings the sound of the morning crossing over to the afternoon, which is where "Are You There?" comes in.
"Are You There?" takes a while to introduce to you a journey looking for the very hope they wish to find in the glistening rivers, glitter sky, and the trees that follow. (Yes, I can hear all of that in the record.) There is a moment where they just breakdown in the instrumental they could have used all the opportunity they had to blow us away, but the fact that they had restrained makes the song even more easy to cuddle up to. "The Remains of the Day" is the type of song that actually soundtracks the day ending, as you get ready for bed, in which you have nothing to carry you to Morpheus but the brightening and mysterious "Moonlight". There you have it. Another day spent. Another CD ends without interruption or intentions to confuse anyone.
So I guess there is more to this album then the fact that it can predict feelings. Not to ape Explosions in the Sky, but think of each song as a time of day. You Are There soundtracks the entire day from dawn to the midnight hour all in under an hour, I suppose. Half of you may hate this record, or think it really means nothing, but to me, it is albums like this that proceed to make albums like M83 sound desperate for attention. (Apologies to Anthony Gonzalez.)
If you want to write a useful review for readers to know a bit more what they're getting into, comparing Mono to their buddies in Pelican and their labelmates Explosions In The Sky seems slighly more relevant to me, rather than trying to figure out what the hell kind of music they're making.
I saw these guys open for Pelican, and I just had to buy "You Are There" at the show. You're not likely to find this kind of hauntingly beautiful experience with any other band. Their 10+mn compositions go crescendo, making your legs shake as the walls of noise follow the quiet melodies.
Just listen to "The Flames Beyond The Cold Mountain" or "Moonlight" with your eyes closed, and you'll see what I mean. "You Are There" is an enchanting experience, it's not the most technically complex album ever, but it simply swallows you in its own universe, leaving you in awe when it's over. Oh, and it's produced by Steve Albini by the way...
No need to classify this release, except in the masterpiece section.
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