Friday, June 11, 2010

Hymn to the Immortal Mono

It's not every day that you get to see a band from Scotland or one from Japan. I got to see both when I caught Scottish indie rock band The Twilight Sad with Japanese post-rockers Mono at the Middle East on May 28, 2010. These are two bands that I have wanted to see for quite some time. They both have original, distinctive sounds and have made the cut for many of the mixtapes I've made over the years.

Unfortunately, due to commuting complications, I arrived halfway through The Twilight Sad's set. They were already well into a full-on shoegaze onslaught by the time I arrived playing their song "The Room" from 2009's reverb/distortion-heavy Forget the Night Ahead. The next three songs were all quieter indie rock songs from their debut Fourteen Auutmns & Fifteen Winters. Forget the Night Ahead was quite a change from their debut and featured a darker sound with greater shoegaze influence. I found it was a great record but I still missed the heartfelt indie rock of their debut which is why I was glad I caught those last 3 songs. The closer "Cold Days from the Birdhouse" was an entrancing and captivating way to close what I saw of their set. The full set list is here.

Singer James Graham drew most of the attention with his Scottish brogue and heartfelt delivery. This was especially evident on my favorite song of theirs "And She Would Darken the Memory" when I got chills as he screamed, "And head up dear, you're shallow and blind/And head up dear, the rabbit might die!" The rest of the band set the stage for such theatrics perfectly, while vigorously tossing around their instruments. I didn't catch much of their set, but I caught enough to be impressed. Below is a video of them performing "That Birthday Present", my favorite song on Forget the Night Ahead. Regrettably, I missed the performance live but I am luckily someone else captured it. Also included, the video for "Seven Years of Video" and a stream of their single "Reflection of the Television"

The Twilight Sad - "That Birthday Present"

The Twilight Sad - "Seven Years of Letters"

The Twilight Sad - "Reflection of the Television"

Mono was an absolute spectacle to witness in person. Their music revolves around an epic, emotionally-charged sound and that is amplified exponentially when seen live. The four piece dominated the typical quiet-quiet-LOUD sound of post-rock bands. The quiet parts would lull you into a trance before they ignited a charge of distorted destruction just a few feet away from your ears. It was easy to be moved by the ebb and flow of songs like opener "Ashes in the Snow" and standout "Pure as Snow" from their immense 2009 album Hymn to the Immortal Wind.

The gorgeous "Follow the Map" served as a fitting introduction to my favorite song of theirs, "Halycon (Beautiful Days)". On the latter, they meandered around a subtle melody that almost calmed everyone to sleep before they kicked on some devasting distortion that could have woken the dead. When they began the crescendo in the aforementioned song, it may have been the only time I saw an entire audience jump simultaneously from startling loudness. The show ended fittingly with "The Everlasting Light" concluding a performance that was lined with texture and substance. The most entralling part of a great post-rock show is that you literally lose yourself in the music and transcend the sounds and the performance to enter a completely different realm. You have no choice but to do so when seeing a band like Mono. This article has the band’s guitarist and lead songwriter, Takaakira Goto, quoted as saying, “I am still trying to create a song that is like a great book or movie that makes people feel as if their lives had been touched.” If they haven't done so already, the song that does this might chance the face of music. The two bands did an admirable job of immersing the audience in a sonic soundscape like no other and I'm glad I was there to see it. Mono's set list can be found here.

Mono recently recorded a live performance with the Wordless Music Orchestra in NYC titled which was released earlier this year as a CD/DVD set titled Holy Ground. Below is their version of "Ashes in the Snow" with the orchestra along with the video for "Follow the Map". A video from the Middle East performance for "Halycon (Beautiful Days)" can be viewed here (embedding was disabled - booo!).

Mono - "Ashes in the Snow (Live with the Wordless Music Orchestra)"

Mono - "Follow the Map"

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