Mono - For My Parents

by Julian Paszkiewicz Rating:9 Release Date:2012-09-10

In most walks of life, it can be taken as a given. The longer you keep plugging away at something, the more likely it is you'll eventually get noticed. That is, it seems, if you do anything other than play post-rock. Despite the inherent drama of delayed guitar arpeggios and the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic, most bands in this field find themselves forever scraping along the bottom.

For most, new albums merely bubble up to flirt with favourable reviews. Accompanying tours end reasonably well attended. But ultimately, those reviewers all write for the same magazines who liked the last record and the venues this time round are pretty much the same size as before. Then begins another spell off the radar, down at the bottom before this cycle repeats itself once more. For most, this is the reality of the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic.

But for every rule, there is an exception. In this case, it's Japan's Mono. In the last decade, they have transcended the "file to next to Mogwai" tag, and developed a rich and musical vocabulary entirely of their own. For My Parents represents the culmination of this evolution and a triumph of instrumental storytelling.
Starting with a solitary drone, the albums' opener 'Legend' builds into an epic, cinematic swell of orchestral strings and electric guitars. While this is par for the course, what is most striking about this piece (and the album as a whole) is not so much its scale or ambition, but its finely-tuned precision.

In 'Dream Odyssey' and 'Unseen Harbour', separate piano, guitar and drum notes gradually shift nearer to one another. Each interweaving repetition moves them closer together until each element hits as one before drifting apart again, creating spaces of reverb for new phrases to plant seed and grow. Put it like that, and you'd be forgiven for thinking this record is more of an exercise in discipline and restraint than one of unfettered passion, and that as a result, the music has lost its emotional impact and initial appeal. Indeed, not a single motif becomes overused and not a single sound is allowed overwhelm any one song.

In actual fact, it is Mono's complete dual mastery of both grand scale and detailed orchestration which makes For My Parents such a monumental achievement. This album tells you a story about the joy, beauty and sheer elation of simply being alive. A thread which fully reveals itself in the glorious, if misleadingly titled, 'A Quiet Place (Together We Go)'.

It's taken the best part of a decade for the band to get here but, boy, is it worth it. Compared to 2009's Hymn to the Immortal Wind, this is no simple step towards another favourable review. Rather, an epiphany of a vision fully executed. One that is comparable to My Bloody Valentine's jump from Isn't Anything to Loveless. In making this leap themselves, Mono have reached a peak of elegance and finesse that most post-rockers can scarcely dream of. Truly exceptional.

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