Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined
mid the brutal guitar squall that punctuates much of Mono’s material is always an item of temperance. Frequently this is the melodic line that began the song, finding its way back into the mix for a triumphant return to prominence. On this, their third album, the group has revealed some tricks up their sleeve however. Making its way among the carnage wrought by the aforementioned guitars is a string quartet, a first for the band.
The crystallization of the Mogwai sound on last year’s One More Step and You Die, however, left the band with little place to go. Here they mine the same sort of territory, but to lesser degrees of success. “Halcyon (Beautiful Days)” is easily the highlight, coming in at a manageable seven-and-a-half minutes. The song uses the string quartet to its full effect, allowing them to stretch out, each member taking a turn at the spotlight and, then, coming together for the massive climax at song’s end. It’s Mono-by-the-numbers, but that’s not a bad thing at all.
Elsewhere the two lengthier pieces, “16.12” and “Lost Snow”, utilize the characteristic loud-soft dynamic in a slightly modified manner—“16.12” including a lengthy string intro and “Lost Snow” using a spacy delay-pedal to maximum effect. And, of course, there are the short interludes: “2 Candles, 1 Wish” a gentle ode that points towards a bright future in soundtrack work and “The Sky Remains the Same as Ever” working towards the same ends via electronic means.
But, in the end, it’s much the same for this Japanese band. Theories abound as to why noisy post-rock rock bands often fail to produce studio products that match their live shows. One the whole, Mono or Mogwai’s live outings are a far more interesting testimonial to the beauty and to the worth of what is captured on tape for posterity. Despite playing melodies that are timeless, this is simply music that must be captured in the moment. Catch them while you still can, rather than spending the money to remind yourself of their brilliance on the stage.