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Everything at Once: Mono’s “Nowhere Now Here” Explores Ever Further

mono

Twenty years is a long time; pre-millennium, in fact. The year 1999 brought us the first Matrix movie, USB sticks, crunchy M&Ms, and other such delights. But we’re not here to talk about confectionery and technology and movies — rather, we are gathered here today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Japanese post-everything pioneers Mono.

From the sonic wall of noise that was their debut Under the Papal Tree to their shimmering post-rock masterpiece Hymn To The Immortal Wind (which remains a defining moment in the post-rock arena to this day), Mono have made their name by carving their own path. And while countless bands have followed down that path, we should always take celebrate those who make such influences possible. This year sees the Tokyo quartet release their tenth full-length Nowhere Now Here, marking their second offering via German label Pelagic Records, out this Friday.

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As with all instrumental music, there is an innate oneupmanship when it comes to concept, with each offering becoming wider, bolder, and more grandiose than the last. Following an album centered around Dante’s Inferno in Requiem For Hell, this widening of concept and abundance of textures raises the question of where one goes from there — especially as the albums following Hymn to the Immortal Wind seemingly compartmentalize the band somewhat, allowing them to draw focus to each of the facets that combine to become unmistakably Mono.

Nowhere Now Here represents a coming-together once again to explore the dualities of Light and Dark with a fully armed presentation of everything the band is and was through their continued experimentation. The duality here feels innately spiritual:, that merging of darkness and light becomes almost transient toward enlightenment with the album acting as one swirling dynamic rather than neatly cut-up tracks. Nowhere Now Here should be thought of as movements defined by emotions felt rather than the through the standard constraints of the traditional album format.

The one-two punch of “After You Comes the Flood” and the rare glimpse of vocals in “Breathe” are the perfect examples of the fleeting yet incredibly well-defined emotion this album exudes. This swirling cacophony swells so intensely, so utterly overwhelmingly, that the instrumentation on show could be summed up as a force of nature though frantic layers of guitars and drums. Fading out into “Breathe,” the onslaught falls away into waves of breathless vocals and shimmeringly simple guitar lines that sweep and swell so brightly to become the tide on which these lines drift toward home.

The core of this record is unabashedly Japanese in influence, playing out like Kabuki theater with its ebbs and flows. Each movement feels precise and immediate flitting from palpable tension to charmed, calming serenity. That cinematic payoff isn’t unique to this band: their contemporaries offer this in one way or another, but Mono execute with a flash that is distinctively theirs. This album may not widen the gyre that is otherwise nebulous music, but it bookends two decades of exploration with thoughtful contemplation.

— Adam Voorhees

Nowhere Now Here releases Friday via Pelagic Records.

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