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Artist: Monno

Album: Error

Label: Conspiracy

Review date: Mar. 5, 2006

Over the last several years, sheer noise has made a somewhat improbable leap to the forefront of the hipsterati’s listening tastes. All to the good, I say. But lest you think that the sonic horizon extends no further than Whitehouse, Wolf Eyes, or Hair Police, consider Monno. A multinational quartet based in Berlin, the group includes drummer Marc Fantini, bassist Derek Shirley, Gilles Aubry on “singing laptop,” and Antoine Chessex on tenor sax played through guitar amps. What’s instantly noteworthy is the fact that each musician save Fantini is involved in Europe’s post-AMM electro-acoustic improvising scene. While this isn’t always audible in this punishing music, it is reflected in the considered way Monno thinks about sound and structure.

On their second full-length, the group explores the kind of dense, relentlessly distorted, pressure systems beloved by fans of the above bands. With 11 tracks coming in just 37 minutes, Monno prove to be relentless on most every level. The sheer noise is compelling, the grooves beneath at times hypnotic (almost as if Neurosis had spawned with Throbbing Gristle). The opening “Necronomik” is a squalling howl into the recorded abyss, an abuse of tape, speaker cones, and instruments as powerful as any in this general idiom. “Hertz Moisture” is a feedback ritual, an engine rattle low end morphing frenetically into an uncontrolled upper register speaker assault. And perhaps even greater brutality is heard on “Douleur Chiffree” and “Grauemasse,” which sound as if they’re trying to shake free of their confines, with Aubry practically vomiting his discontent or despair.

Elsewhere, however, they prove adept at shaping these materials into sinister sounding grooves. “Tiny Fossils” erupts with a fuzzed out riff, announcing the band’s relatively eclectic personality. It’s got the vocal fury of countrymen Knut, the sludgy groove of Boris, and the sheer hellish miasma of Zeni Geva at their best. (Speaking of Knut, the coiled, prog-metal menace that quartet specializes in is heard on the sinister “Blind.”) “Defekt” is a flailing tetherball of noise that hints at Lightning Bolt, as does the trance-inducing shake of “Pourri.” Yet just as confidently, Monno can explore relatively tranquil fields, as on “Rapid Flesh.” The closing “Outre Monde” is a fascinating nod towards what might happen if the seemingly rarefied musics of European free improvisation (and its electro-acoustic offspring) might merge with the intensity and urgency of the No Fun Fest crowd. These convergences are, of course, already happening, but Monno has made among the most artful (and, oh yeah, the most nastily noisy) of them.

By Jason Bivins

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