The argument that it’s more challenging to make affecting instrumental music than it is with vocals has never been a particularly convincing one. Though vocalizing a particular emotion or experience maybe paints a more literal picture than allowing instruments to do all of the communication, the onus is on the vocalist to sell that emotion, or at the very least not botch the mood with a poor reading. A band like Japan’s Mono, however, have made a decade-plus-long career out of grand, sweeping statements built of feeling and evocation, all without uttering a single word. It’s a reliably powerful approach the band has come to master, and one that over time has perhaps lost some of its surprise elements. On latest album For My Parents, however, it remains as gorgeous as ever.
Where some of their post-rock contemporaries like Godspeed You! Black Emperor might prefer alternately overwhelming and sometimes bleak approaches, or Grails might take a trip into more psychedelic headspaces, Mono offers a slow moving journey toward gracefully gigantic climaxes. For My Parents continues the band’s legacy with five massive pieces that don’t feel so much like songs as separate, individual scores. The dramatic “Legend,” for instance, balances passages of string-laden melancholy with rushes of discordant distortion, while shifting gears in its final third to arise from a dreamy mist into a soaring overture. And “Nostalgia” follows a similar path, albeit without abandoning the weeping, minor key sensibility from which it begins.
The pattern set out by the first couple of tracks on For My Parents essentially holds for the entirety of its 55 minutes, but what similarities exist among these five massive tracks are offset by the subtle nooks and treasures that are hidden away within each one. What’s remarkable about music this huge and this climactic, however, is that it has the capability to serve various purposes. For My Parents is a proper soundtrack for either coping with a crippling loss, or standing on top of the world in triumph. Going on 14 years as a band, Mono continues to firmly stake their position as house band to life-changing circumstances.
Grails – Deep Politics
Red Sparowes – The Fear Is Excruciating But Therein Lies the Answer
Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
Video: Mono – “Legend”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.