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Mono, "You Are There"

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Over the course of four albums and some relentless touring, Mono have proven themselves capable of making some noise. On You Are There, however, the band doesn't burst in with guns blazing, but quietly sneak in through the side door. They haven't succumbed, however, to making an MOR record by a long shot.


Temporary Residence

Mono - You Are There

Sometimes the element of surprise is a stronger statement when made soft. What I first take serious notice of on this album is the lyrical bassline, as basslines in general are becoming almost far too ignored.  Too many bands it seems are leaving bass out left and right, maybe because the obsession with becoming a rock star is way too commonplay currently, but somehow when the bass guitar comes in after a +4 minute intro, the music exits its incubation and its life begins.  Recorded and mixed once again by that relatively unknown and underappreciated Steve Albini (boy can that kid mic a drumset) You Are There clocks in at exactly 60 minutes, and none of them feel wasted. 

I can see how Mono might be accused of sounding like other acts but they need to be commended for the ability to both fill the sound and make it something beautiful enough to fall in love with.  Sure, they have a lot of extremities and tendencies to layer guitars till speakers rumble, but there are beautiful valleys between the majestic peaks.  "A Heart Has Asked for the Pleasure," the album's second song is a purely drum and noise free piece nicely sandwiched between the energetic opener and the Mono side to last year's split with Pelican, "Yearning."  It's in this brief valley where the band decorate the landscape with string-like sounds and glistening glockenspiel-like chimes.  The fact it stretches to over three minutes is a definite evolution for Mono, who are classically known to keep their quieter pieces short.  Back to the ruckus, "Yearning," a popular live favorite, unsurprisingly the track they picked to pair with Pelican, sees the band dancing with metal with a chugging bassline any Hydra Head fan can adore.

After the screaming blaze of "Yearning" finishes smoldering, the band return to the more reserved, more majestic, and quite cinematic sound with the album's (almost) title track, "Are You There?" It calmly eggs us on, hinting at an explosive outburst in numerous spots, building up and building up, only for the rockers to throw a curve ball, as it all unfolds to a gorgeous cello melody, subtly joined by guitar only in its last throes.

When I interviewed Taka (one of the guitarist) for The Eye segment nearly three years ago, they were on tour supporting their second album, One Step More and You Die.  Back then, he fondly spoke of his obsession with classical music and yearning to introduce it into the band somehow.  The last two tracks of You Are There are probably the closest as the first one is largely a soft piano melody and the album's finale, the 13-minute "Moonlight," opens with what seems like a piano, string, and marimba opening, only to part ways for some quiet guitars, which patiently hold their ground until all hell breaks loose and Mono unleash what the hardcore fans all came out to see.

Mono have a sound, that's undeniable, and while it can become limiting, they have shown their ability to expanding on it without abandonment.  Exercising more discipline in composition, restraint, and patience, the band has only become stronger.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 July 2009 07:24  


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