Mono @ First Unitarian Church; Philadelphia PA (09/17/2004)
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Here’s a review of the show I wrote for a college paper and online ‘zine in 2004. Enjoy! I think I dated the MP3s wrong, they’re supposed to be the 17th of September, not the 7th. Oops!
Taka Goto sits hovering over his guitar. He deftly plucks a few strings and then raises his arm and waves it like a symphony conductor. On the opposite side of the stage from him sits Yoda, slowly fading in and out long, resonating notes. Yamaki separates the two men as they weave guitar licks around her ominous bass riff. Yasunori pounds a steady, tom-heavy drum beat with his mallets. The guitars begin to louden, and Taka begins strumming ascending octaves with growing fervor. The drums pound harder. Suddenly they begin to roll and a deafening roar encompasses the packed church basement. A searing wall of noise erupts as Taka slams his foot down on a Danelectro Fab-Tone fuzz pedal. It’s raucous, and yet the delicate soaring high notes remain audible over this sheet of white noise. All four members of the Japanese rock outfit Mono are heaving themselves back and forth, driving home “16.12” the lead track from their new album Walking Cloud And Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered And The Sun Shined. When the march finally subsides and slowly fades out, the crowd has already begun to roar in approval. Taka removes his guitar and bows to his audience. He slides his chair away and the whole thing begins again.
Since the group’s 2001 debut Under the Pipal Tree, Mono has been honing their craft. The first album was repetitive, perhaps overstating the band’s fascination with dynamics. The chord structures all sounded the same, and the loud/soft paradigm felt more a necessity than a tool for developing a niche. Their second album, One Step More and You Die showed marked improvement, with more attention paid to detail and great leaps in songwriting innovation. On Walking Cloud… the compositions are much more complex. Hypnotic drones are juxtaposed with spiraling leads and brilliant cello/violin interplay. The tracks still veer inevitably towards those epic crescendos of earth shattering proportions, but they are driven by lush volume swells and a renewed, invigorating ambiance. Imagine cranking a music box to its breaking point. The melodic subtleties remain, now they’re just bathed in thunderous volume.
Taka retakes his seat to begin performing the evening’s last song, “Halcyon (Beautiful Days).” He swells octaves and single notes together, adding some delay to give a lofty effect. All is still except for Yasunori’s slight, down-tempo drumming, Taka’s gentle picking and Yoda’s slight, sporadic chord strumming. Abruptly, Yoda and Taka spark the song’s peak, a distorted, slow-melting frenzy. Yoda carries the rhythm and Taka returns to aggressively chopping at those towering high notes. As the song descends, the drums cease their heavy crashing and a solitary guitar is left to sweep up the remains of a remarkable performance.
There’s a message of hope in the music Mono construct. Despite being described as “the soundtrack to the end of the world,” they want everyone to know that there is a message of optimism in their songs. Walking Cloud… is inspired by the tale of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, about a young Japanese girl who developed leukemia from the effects of the Hiroshima bombing. While in the hospital, Sadako’s closest friend relays an old legend that the gods will grant wishes to anyone who could successfully fold one thousand paper cranes. With an enduring sense of determination, Sadako began to fold. And so once the last notes of the album’s final track, “A Thousand Paper Cranes” fades, Mono wants us to help. Each copy of the album includes a small piece of red origami paper and directions for creating a paper crane. Perhaps if we’re successful in our folding, if we do not lose hope, all our wishes may come true.
First Unitarian Church; Philadelphia, PA
September 17th, 2004
MediaFire Download Link
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