Japanese post-rock outfit Mono slipped quietly into town last week for a show that bore all the hallmarks of a secret gig. Very little advance publicity led to a surprisingly low turnout for a band that released one of the very best albums of the last five years. Released in 2009, the superb Hymn to the Immortal Wind still stands as a towering, majestic achievement - terrifying and beautiful in equal measure, with eloquent string-drenched passages giving way to pulverising guitar and drums based climaxes. Early indications are that new album For My Parents continues in the same vein as its illustrious predecessor so it was always going to be interesting to see how Mono distilled the heavily orchestrated and cinematic sound of their most recent two albums down to just a four piece band.
As it happened, they managed it pretty impressively - there were plenty of stirring moments of epic grandeur and stunning emotional peaks. Without the full orchestral arrangements that were such an integral part of Hymn to the Immortal Wind, it was left to the dual guitars of Takaakira Goto and Hideki Suematsu to wring as much emotion out of these songs as possible, and they did this as best as could be expected. Like so much post-rock instrumental music, all of the songs start off with sparse, simple guitar motifs, before building and building to the mother of all climaxes - Mono stuck pretty closely to this blueprint, but without the subtle variations provided by the addition of a full orchestra on their recent records, it did sound a little repetitive at times.
Opening with the first three numbers from their new album, it took a while for the crowd to warm up - Mono are not a band that invite much by way of audience participation; for most of the set, bass player Tamaki Kunishi took centre stage flanked by the two seated guitarists - not a single word was uttered by the band for the entire concert. Mono are a band that let their music do the talking, and when it speaks as eloquently as early set highlight 'Pure as Snow' who really cares about the lack of any real clichéd crowd interaction?
Even with bare lineup of four, Mono still make a pretty impressive noise - never more evident than on the magnificent 'Everlasting Light' which brought down the curtain on a set that had some stunning and unforgettable moments- such a shame that there were not more there to witness it.
Review by Paul Page