Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain (PP/MMR) is the latest full length from the increasingly prolific Mono. Mono's past releases specialised in soaring instrumental rock dynamics which tended to peak with cacophonous `calls to arms'. Mono however were always slightly distinguished from their peers (i.e. Explosions In The Sky, 65 Days of Static) as they exercised a deft sense of understated, dark and nervy, neoclassical melody which they intrinsically intertwined within their songs. PP/MMR is the appropriately titled 4th album by these Japanese instrumentalists. Katsuhiko Maeda, the man behind post rock/electronica artist `World's End Girlfriend', is enlisted to assist with this release, which is a departure from the peak and trough sound expected by most. Instead, Mono & Maeda creating an achingly beautiful soundscape which expands upon the quiet, lush interludes found in their previous works. Subtlety and restraint are employed as the tools of choice, whipping up somber yet lush and celestial, orchestral pieces which evoke an otherworldly atmosphere.
The album slowly builds and builds, starting off with soft and drawn out orchestral instrumentals. Violins become more of a central theme as the album progresses, providing a dark, desolate, mourning ambience which portrays a more identifiable and archetypal post-rock sound. As we move into the middle of the album, instruments are accompanied by perfectly suited, soft choral vocals, which add yet another dimension to the heart-tugging emotion conveyed so expertly by this album. As the album reaches is final movement, it moves into a slow, dragging string and piano melody before slowly (and maturely) building into a muted (but in the context of this album, significant) crescendo which serves as the `explosion of tension'. This release of energy is threatened so readily throughout the album and only masters of the post-rock genre, like Mono, have the ability to develop sophisticated buildups.
This release is a true long-player with each track serving as a movement rather than existing in isolation. If auditioned in a non-captive context, PP/MMR can easily be overlooked and exist quietly as non-offensive background music. This album is requires attentiveness on the part of the listener and will serve to provide immense pleasure forever. This is truly timeless music. (RM)
For fans of: Rachels, (early) Silver Mt Zion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor
To say that this is an album for lovers of post-rock, Godspeed you black emperor, Silver Mt Zion, Below the sea etc - would be a simplistic way to put it. This is an album for those who simply like music - irrespective of genre - that reaches those depths, complexity and beauty of classical timeless music, without necessarily seeking to stick labels. Indeed this album is as close to classical music as it gets, and not 'lighter' classical music I might add. The levels of profoundness, subtlety and refinement that this joint team of Japanese wizards reaches on this album is so astounding and heart-stirring that this album will have no problem finding its place on your classical music shelf, near the great composers. A surprisingly complex, moving, delicate and altogether amazing album.
I already loved MONO but came across a track from this on a music blog. At that time it was not available as a CD so I downloaded it from eMusic. Now it is available I've added it to my wish list and if no-one gets it for my birthday or Christmas I will buy it myself. Whether this is chamber music or post-rock, I don't care. It is one of only two albums where I have rated every track as 5 stars on iTunes (the other is Messaien's Turangalila Symphony and I'm not convinced the version I have quite deserves it). I realise I have not actually described the music - I can't, except to say that it is absolutely, gut-wrenchingly beautiful. Do have a hunt around for World's End Girlfriend's solo albums too - more variable (sometimes brilliant, sometimes self-indulgent), sadly not available on CD in the UK yet.