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Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind

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Artist: Mono

Album: Hymn to the Immortal Wind

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Apr. 2, 2009

There is a distinct charm in the complex simplicity of Japanese band Mono. There’s nothing singular or uniform about these folks. They start with delicate melodies, and then apply layers and layers of guitars and strings, adding glistening coats of aural shellac until there is a thick decoupage of sound.

Hymn to the Immortal Wind is Mono’s latest, and it’s their most cinematic effort to date. The M.O. is established on opening track “Ashes In the Snow,” where a repetitive glockenspiel motif peals across a film of white noise, followed by a flamenco-inspired guitar line and an abrupt tsunami of Morricone-meets-Branca bombast. (That “glockenspiel” and “bombast” appear in the same sentence should indicate the extent to which Mono successfully romp on the volume-and-dynamics teeter-totter.)

Elsewhere, “Pure As Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)” features gossamer guitar lines vaguely reminiscent of Loren Mazzacane that spin into a dizzying whorl of saturated feedback, orchestral frenzy and tape manipulation. “Follow the Map” is the unusually brief track on the album, but over the course of a mere four minutes, it manages to careen from hushed piano and slide guitar to a full-blown symphonic eruption. The CD closer, “Everlasting Light,” ends in waves of suitably crushing crescendos.

Hymn of the Immortal Wind has a ripe, organic lunge to it, attributable in part to the fact that band leader Takaakira "Taka" Goto insists on recording as a live group, and that means a string section nearly 20 strong. Long-time Mono cellist Alison Chesney recounted the processed in an e-mail: “Taka’s English is limited, but he managed to convey very specific ideas to us as far as the feel. It would be something like ‘Play like a cloud drifting slowly across the sky’ - he was quite serious and we took him seriously. And dynamics were very important and specific. We would often have to play several shades of a particular dynamic.”

As far as the production goes, we should just put Steve Albini’s face on our money and be done with it. What’s on the back of the $10 bill, Monticello? It should be Electrical. Albini purportedly has over 70 vintage microphones at Electrical, and he probably used every last one of them to record Hymn of the Immortal Wind, with none of them a millimeter off target. It’s the sound of epic detail in exquisite registration, and Albini perfectly vivifies Mono’s Technicolor wall of sound.

By Jeff Hunt

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