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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mono- Hymn to the Immortal Wind LP (9/10), 21 Feb 2009
Now on their 5th full length release, Japanese four-piece `Mono' have steadily developed and defined their exciting but raw post-rock dissonance into a sublimely composed orchestral-rock masterclass. Featuring a cast of over 25 musicians contributing cello, contrabass, violin, viola and flute, Mono's newly found but not unexpected sound is undoubtedly epic and assuredly vivid and will make your Godspeed albums sound half-finished and your Explosions in the Sky albums sound ascetic.

Being one entity of music dissected into seven movements, Mono dish out a sonic narrative that shifts from rocking and unwieldy crescendos to sublime yet treacherous valleys and beyond. Crashing percussion, distorted-guitars, sweeping string-instruments, incandescent guitar motifs and the melodic flutters of harpsichord and glockenspiel are perfectly and I mean perfectly measured both in terms of timing and weight. They serve to open up these dynamic and melodic soundscapes in such a manner as to invite you, the listener, in with open arms, making you feel one with the music as it envelops you with its tangible sense of dismay, hopelessness, opportunity, optimism and turmoil.

Opener `Ashes in the Snow' reveals the immense Albini-derived production values that propel Mono into the upper echelons of instrumental rocks premier league. Such a lush and cinematically textured sound, it sweeps with the poignant majesty usually reserved for cult classical composers of yesteryear and has the power to sweep listeners off their feet whilst making them balk at the sheer opulence of their sound. Unlike lesser post-rock bands, Mono's trademark crashing dynamics are not in any way separated from the crux of their pieces but, instead, they are intertwined and naturally develop out of the heavily orchestrated body of effervescent sound from which it was born.

Being representative of many of the tracks featured on the album, `Burial at Sea' is what one would expect to score the post-climatic ending to the most epic of Bond films- that is if such a mainstream movie could ever provide such moving storylines to counterpart such moving sonics. What one is trying to say is that the sound that bellows out of the speakers is assuredly high end and unashamedly high-budget but refreshingly there is no watered down composition to speak of. Ambitious in scope it deals a deadly blow to all other instrumental rock bands both in terms of compositional dexterity and the sound-staging of respective textures. Its ethereal lulls and vivacious crests melt into each with unnerving ease and staggering harmoniousness whilst it stimulates the senses with its deliciously trembling strings, monumental tectonic-plate movements and ethereal beauty.

The best post-rock aims to stir ones emotions to the core through the crafting of melodies that create a palpable sense of tension that is then released in a measured but aggressive eruption of sound. Mono has been pinning down this methodology since their inception but `Hymn to the Immortal Wind' is their most realised piece of work yet. Showcasing a keen sense of vicissitude throughout the album, they effortlessly meld together the ferocity of rock with the sweeping and swelling nuances of classical music to make an epically buoyant and three-dimensional soundscape that paints a resplendent picture of hope and hopelessness in one great body. (KS)

For fans of: Red Sparowes, This Will Destroy You, Set Fire to Flames
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a worthy successor to 'You Are There', 31 Jan 2009
By 
P. McMullen (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
MONO don't so much write songs as shape them, like Gods, out of incoming weather patterns. They gather fluffy white fragments of cloud and forge them into majestic black thunderheads, they take gentle puffs of wind and spin them into hurricane-force onslaughts that destroy everything in their path, and turn the gentle patter of rain into raging tsunami of sound. And then they put everything right again; better in fact than it ever was before, washed and reconstructed and exciting once again. They are to my mind quite simply the most extraordinarily creative and mesmerising rock band anywhere in the world right now. They are also both the gentlest and the loudest, and often all within the confines of the same song.

`Hymn to the Immortal Wind' is MONO's fifth studio album, their first since 2006's `You Are There', and marks the band's tenth anniversary in all. No mean feat in itself - but the truly remarkable thing is that not only is it a worthy successor to `You Are There', but if anything betters it.

After five years of pretty much constant touring, the band holed up at home in Japan for over a year to focus on writing this album, emerging only once to play at the Terrastock 7 festival in Kentucky - immediately after which they repaired to Steve Albini's place to do a little recording, along with an entire chamber orchestra: 10 cellists and 9 violins, plus assorted viola, flute and contrabass. To describe the instrumentation as "vast" therefore is understating it somewhat. There is however an intimacy to these recordings which somehow makes the music even more real, more visceral, and thus more powerful still: you can hear wooden chairs creaking as the orchestra rocks in their seats, and hear the conductor's opening cues (a trick MONO have been known to employ before: the occasional spoken word is enough almost to give the lie to their being a purely instrumental band)

`Ashes in the Snow' opens the album, initially twinkling at you like a passage from Mike Oldfield's progressive-rock magnum opus `Tubular Bells', building layer on layer of rolling sound until it becomes a crescendo, and very much carrying on from where `You Are There' left off. After a brilliantly understated classical guitar intro by Takaakira "Taka" Goto, pounding drums are fittingly very much at the heart of `Burial at Sea': arguably one of the strongest songs on here and definitely one of those with the most memorable melodies, the dynamics at work are simply spellbinding, passing from lightness to dark and from hope to despair repeatedly throughout the course of ten and a half minutes before finally exploding in an all-consuming cacophony of sound. `Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn' follows on seamless behind it, a romantic, haunting and highly orchestrated number.

`Pure As Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)' is back into more traditional MONO territory, that trademark super-strummed, over-amped guitar sound well to the fore throughout, and once again exploding beautifully in a heads-down, rock-out fashion towards the close: one gets the impression this will remain a staple of their live set for some time to come. `Follow the Map' is another highly orchestrated number, but with layers of guitars hovering over and around it like butterflies drawn to a brightly shining lamp. You'd expect `The Battle To Heaven' to be face-meltingly loud, with a title like that, and sure enough it is: but at the mid-way mark there is an achingly beautiful, pregnant pause which lends the piece an almost thoughtful, mature and introspective aspect, like finding love unexpectedly in the middle of a battlefield.

`Everlasting Light' closes the album, and it's on here that everything comes crashing together: an orchestrated introduction led, unusually for MONO, by a piano (played I believe by bassist Tamaki) suddenly explodes into a massive wall of guitar noise, which the band maintain for six minutes of so of unrelenting sound. It's achingly beautiful and a metaphor for the album as whole, which I earnestly suggest you should check out at your earliest possible convenience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Soundtrack, 28 Mar 2009
Mono just keep getting better. Ten years, and five albums, and a steady improvement throughout. 'Hymn To The Immortal Wind' is their greatest effort yet - shimmering and epic. Anyone familiar with their work will recognise how they masterfully climb the mountain from a whisper to a roar and back down again. This album seems to whisper more delicately and roar with such ear-splitting intensity that it's almost impossible not to be overwhelmed.

The interplay between Yoda and Taka's guitars is impeccable, and the washes of lush strings do nothing to detract from the beautiful core of the band's playing. Taka's arrangements really do emphasise the beauty of these compositions.

Almost all of these pieces are on the epic scale - 10-13 minutes apiece, and this is not overblown self-indulgence at all - each piece follows its own distinctive path to its own logical conclusion.

Having heard how integral the string arrangements seem to these pieces, I thought that it would be difficult for Mono to play this album live without them. How wrong I was. They captured all the passion, emotion and intensity of each composition beautifully (except 'Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn', where the strings are so integral to the piece, without them it would have been a piano solo). The strings seemed like dressing. If you get a chance to see them playing this album live, don't pass it up. It's quite a breathtaking experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hearts desire expressed in a world where words have ceased to have meaning, 1 Jan 2010
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
What a work of art this is. Not only do you get nearly 70 minutes of stunningly dramatic and powerful music you get an insert booklet with some stunning artwork ( by Esteban Rey ) and short chapters of the titular Hymn To The Immortal Wind ( written by Heeya So) The line up of musicians for this project reads like the cast of a film which is kind of ironic as the music has a cinematic sheen and scope featuring ebbing and flowing arrangements , huge theatrical pulses and some fulsome string arrangements by Takaakira Goto.
As has been mentioned by other reviewers fans of God Speed You Black Emperor , Explosions In The Sky, Sigur Ros at their most classical or Mogwai will find much to cherish here. This is Mono,s fifth album but the first time I have listened to them since their debut Formica Blues and they have certainly come on sonic leaps and expressive bounds .
The music swells on percussion like a whale footprint , or is propelled forward by juddering emissions of guitar . Other times it gravitates towards the classical with piano and bleeding strings . "Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn " is like Michael Nyman at his most poignant ."The Battle To Heaven " in contrast features guitars that are positively grungy before the whole becomes a white hot furnace of blurred chords and shimmering drumming. "Everlasting Light " is a miasmic iridescent slice of pure rapture.
Is it post rock , classical rock , meta rock ? Does it really matter ? It is majestic , stunning and breathtaking and quite a few other adjectives that don't spring readily to mind right this very minute. This is music expressing through just sound and texture more than most albums can do with the most articulate verbiage tacked on. It is the hearts desire expressed in a world where words have ceased to have meaning . Which sort of makes the nice little written things in the booklet redundant but you should read them anyway. I say again - This is a work of art. The words are lovely , the artwork gorgeous but it's the music that really stirs the soul and that is how it should be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful. Just Beautiful., 12 Sep 2011
No words can describe how beautiful this album is. I know this isn't very helpful, but let's put it in these 3 facts:

1) The last 14 months, 2 out of 3 cds I listen to, is a Mono cd. This happened after I first listened to "Immortal Wind".

2) When I first listened to it on my earphones, I was laying on my bed with my eyes closed, and after listening to the second track (Burial At Sea), I actually thought I had an out of body experience, unifying myself with this MUSIC.

3) I listened to post-rock for 10 years now, Godspeed You Black Emperor etc, and I thought that the genre had pretty much stumbled on a "limitations" wall. In my opinion, "Hail To The Immortal Wind" has just broke this "wall".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Classical Than Rock, 23 Jun 2009
By 
Mr. John Heath "nufc masochist" (Guildford UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is modern classical music to my humble ears. This is craftmanship but with intense emotional feeling. Layered, dense, orchestral, cinematic in scope and breadth, and in this album a shift towards light and shade rather than as in previous albums quiet into loud, although there are climactic build ups and hauntingly soft, sad passages. What you are not going to get is sudden shifts of tempo or pumped up rock riffs, more a melodic wash of electric guitars, percussion and orchestral instruments - lots of string instruments, glockenspiels, harpsichords etc. The pure beauty of the songs are striking and hits you with their intensity and they meld together seamlessly, being conceptual in its instrumental narrative (evidenced by the small stories - generally sad but hopeful - in the album notes but with plenty of scope for individual interpretation, especially achievable without the specifity of vocal storytelling. Each soundscape has a general melodic motif or two and the songs, generally 10 minutes plus, except for the shorter and achingly beautiful Follow The Map, build into dreamy layered refrains that has more than enough texture and substance to immerse you in their web. This is simply great music to get lost in another time and space.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hymn To The Immortal Wind, 13 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Hymn To The Immortal Wind (MP3 Download)
5/5 Anyone who likes post-rock should buy this album. Not much more i can say than that. A brilliant album.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Never wanted it to end......., 4 May 2013
By 
A. Chapman (Cambs, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Difficult finding the words to describe all the emotions felt when listening to this album, nothing I've heard before has evoked both sadness & joy in equal measures as this did. The opening track builds slowly but when it finally breaks I found myself rewinding the track slightly & increasing the volume to get overwhelmed once more by THAT break. Much like GYBE, this is not background music nor something you could dip in / out of, it deserves your entire attention. Grab yourself a good set of headphones, turn your phone off & let Mono take you to a place you probably won't want to return from. There are many individual tracks / songs from various artists over the years that would vie for space in a personal top 10 but very few albums, where every single track is priceless & nothing could be sacrificed..this is one of those few.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The soundtrack for my death bed, 19 Oct 2012
By 
This is emotional music at it's best. Hairs stood up on the back of my neck listening to this album. I 'liked' the early MONO stuff but this album has made be 'love' them. The orchestration adds so much depth to an already dramatic band. Make no mistake, this is as intense as music gets. As someone else said, this is modern day classical music. Masterful. The NEW album 'For My Parents' is even better!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best post-rock album of the year?, 13 Jun 2009
By 
Ricardo Mota (Gaia, Portugal) - See all my reviews
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Mono have released a splendid album, mixing cinematic moods with crescendos able to lift you from the chair.

A Masterpiece!
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