Fitter, Happier, More Productive: Mono, Hymn to the Immortal Wind



(Tuesdays can be a trying day here in Club Land at the RFT. It's deadline day for the show/concert listings, and this fact hangs over my head just like all of those foreboding elementary school (and high school and college) homework assignments that I would inevitably put off to the last minute. But Tuesdays always go off without a hitch, and it's all because the right music always seems to present itself. Each week I'll talk about what induces the trance-like state I need to become one with the listings.)

This week the promo gods bestowed upon me the new album by epic Japanese instrumental rockers Mono.

Hymn to the Immortal Wind is a really epic album. No, seriously -- you don't understand. It's truly a mammoth collection of noisy orchestral bliss, soaring guitar effects fury and oh-so-patiently-building waves of harmonized feedback. It's easy to scoff when you load a CD into the ol' iTunes and you're confronted with a seven-song album that's an hour-plus long, with not one but five songs clocking in at over ten minutes. However, the album's deliberate dynamic shifts, and the fact that most of the songs gel together so seamlessly, allow Wind to stealthily drift by like the loosely connected motifs of a lucid dream.

The first track, "Ashes in the Snow," commences with a distant layer of gritty guitar noise which is counterbalanced with light twinkles of orchestral bells and a sparse, clean guitar line, before a swelling cymbal signals the entry of a lush, cinematic string section. The full-throttle bombast of drums and swirling, effects-laden guitar that have become Mono's trademark don't make their full appearance until about the eight-minute mark. But even after the band erupts, it still manages to tactfully build the chaos toward a climactic final two minutes, during which strings and concert hall-sized tom-tom and cymbal reverberations come back into focus.

Mono's music does and will continue to draw comparisons to American purveyors of movie score-meets-rock band instrumentalism (most notabley Explosions in the Sky). But don't mistake Mono for a carbon copy: While the sheer scope of these densely orchestrated mini-symphonies would be hard to completely pull off in a live setting without the aid of a 20-piece orchestra, on record they are emotionally stimulating, visually inspirational mood pieces that are never over-indulgent.

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