Often referred to as Japan's answer to Explosions In The Sky, Mono are an instrumental post rock band whose sound relies heavily on clean guitar arrangements amidst delicate drumming and, at times, ethereal string accompaniment. Though the obvious comparison to Explosions In The Sky is a fair one, I would say Mono are more of a similar line of questioning rather than an 'answer' to the Texan group. Both of these bands formed around the same time and just so happen to create similar music. Comparisons aside, Mono already have three stellar releases behind them, as well as a full length collaboration album with the IDM group World's End Girlfriend. With each passing release, Mono have shown no indication of an abrupt change in sound, and You Are There is no exception. Rather than completely change their sound and approach on each release, these individuals seem content with simply building upon what they have already created. Now, with their fourth full length, Mono prove once again that simplicity can be just as powerful as complexity.
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.