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In Concert: Mono


Most people these days call it Post Rock, but when I was young, we called it Kraut Rock. Or perhaps Progressive Rock. And besides, the music of the Japanese band Mono recently has evolved beyond this.

Yes, I'm late with my report of their concert on May, 25th in the Künstlerhaus (K4), organized by Musikverein Concerts, but I was just too busy. The concert wasn't really that well attended, perhaps 60 people in the audience, but taken into account that the location is rather small and poorly ventilated, it was just right. Not too empty, not too crowded. And the overall atmosphere was great (except for that idiot right of me trying to shove me away from where I stood, even though he had more than enough space, and I didn't, and the two assholes behind me chatting loudly during the whole concert.) A surprisingly young audience for this kind of music, mostly in their early twenties, and none of those emo type of posers. The musician playing before Mono was Dirk Serries, a very good guitarist who creates quite interesting soundscapes with his guitar, some effect devices, and a looper. I didn't thought it would work well as a live performance, but he proved me wrong. Yet, not quite my cup of tea, I have to admit.

And then Mono. A purely instrumental band with two guitarists, bass and drums. And heavy influences by Morricone, Beethoven, Russian folklore — not only due to Takaakira Goto playing the electric guitar with a tremolo reminding of a balalaika, but mainly due to what I perceive as typical central Asian harmonies — a bit of Mahler, Tchaikovsky, perhaps even Puccini, quite some early Kraftwerk (of course) and orchestral film music in general. The more you hear their music, the more you'll discover. And even though it is just guitars, bass and drums, a bit of glockenspiel and keyboards here and there, I wouldn't call it rock anymore. It is orchestral, symphonic, with generally quite complex drum patterns. Nothing of it sounds specifically Japanese, only if you listen very closely you'll find some chords that wouldn't be played that way in European or American music. And of course you can tell from the subject of their compositions. A common theme is the beauty and force of nature. From the first drops of rain to a heavy thunderstorm and then the sun comes out again: amazing how well instrumental music can transport the mood of changing weather across all cultural differences. Usually the songs start calm, on low sound level, with a sweet melody, develop an amazing crescendo, often ending in very complex soundscapes, but even with all that noise they never let lose of the melody. Within all that force there remains a hint of fragile beauty. Needless to say I'm a complete sucker for this trick. While this is a common theme of postrock, Mono add a certain complexity and variations to it so it never gets boring. And they like to break out of the pattern occasionally. Some of their compositions take a surprisingly different direction after a while.

The music of Mono works both ways: very intense music directly inducing emotions and pictures in your head, on the other hand something to analyze and think about.


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