Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mono - Hymn To The Immortal Wind (2009)

4.5 ★/9.0 - 9.9

It's easy to understand how Mono has never quite achieved the same level of respect as their post-rock forefathers. There's already been far too many post-rock bands in pretty much every corner of the world, pounding into our heads their philosophy of quiet-loud-quiet dynamics, pushing the limits of epic instrumentals, and for the longest time, yet another Mogwai copycat didn't seem necessary. Even up to last year's (mostly) acclaimed You Are There, it was easy to say that Mono were essentially doing for Post-Rock what Bush was doing for Grunge - introducing the world to a third tier of third-rate artists, in the interest of record companies trying to capitalize on popular musical trends.

But Hymn To The Immortal Wind is a different beast altogether. Perhaps it's the new instrumentation. You Are There didn't even try to step out of Explosions in The Sky's established formula and consequently suffered for it. When they did use instrumentation other than guitars on that album, it felt like they could have just as easily been using more guitars. But enlisting a full-fledged orchestra for their follow-up was the best move they could have possibly done. Songs are clearly written with the new instruments and their capabilities in mind, making the band's usual sound feel much more natural and vital, rather than contrived and redundant. For example, the stunning opener, "Ashes in The Snow" is based on gentle twinkling of glockenspiels, lending actual weight to the layers of guitar riffs, and the swells of strings that accompany the sweeping chords turn what could've easily been another boring exercise into something genuinely affecting. The second half of the same song, meanwhile, sounds like a beautiful collaboration between Ennio Morricone and Hans Zimmer.

So, obviously, before tagging Hymn... as "another post rock" album, expect to encounter traces of hesitation, because the music within shares far more in common with modern classical music. Admittedly, bands like Sigur Ros and Godspeed You Black Emperor may have already laid claim to such intentions, and that's probably why one would think that Hymn..., no matter how good it might be, couldn't possibly reach the same heights as those aforementioned bands. But neither them nor their followers have created anything quite as cinematic as Mono has here. The mind-splitting opener, and the similarly breathtaking closer, "Everlasting Light" (which is every bit as beautiful as it sounds), are worth the price of admission alone, but there are 5 tracks sandwiched in between them, and almost all of them are just as good. Hymn To The Immortal Wind is a startlingly consistent labor of love, crafted track-for-track with a single goal in mind; to show that, even when Post-Rock dies, genuinely moving instrumental music will always be around, fulfilling man's primal need for meaning and capturing the deepest, most romantic emotions through sound-paintings that continually ebb, flow and soar into the stratosphere.

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