Mono @ Badlands Bar
Sunday, November 12, 2018
Being in the presence of Japanese post rockers Mono while they perform their music on stage is usually such a spell-binding experience that you tend to savour the show with eyes closed for the most part.
Like all good live post rock should do, the cinematic quality to Mono’s vast instrumental soundscapes succeeds in blowing kisses to your head, transporting you to that deep, sensuous place where you not only feel the sound but see it as well, a personal soundtrack for the atmospheric motion picture playing in your brain.
So you stand there with eyes shut, head wide open, swaying along, immersed in the sound, and just letting the noise envelop you as you glide along for the sweet ride, drink in hand largely untouched. Just what the post rock doctor ordered.
The Tokyo outfit’s recent show at Badlands Bar – the last port of call on this month’s Australian jaunt saw Sydney post metal three-piece Dumbsaint along as able tour support. Their heavy instrumental sounds were joined by some frankly depressing original visuals that seemed to depict one person’s suicide as their partner looked on helplessly from the shore. Even if the vision tended to detract a little from the music, Dumbsaint’s sound was crushing and impressive.
It was my second time catching Mono live and once again, they delivered the same kind of high quality, tripped out, almost out of body live experience that has been honed and perfected over years of constant worldwide gigging.
Pulling choice selections from across their back catalogue, Mono played with a concentrated, almost studious, intensity throughout their 80-minute set, meticulously weaving hypnotic tapestries of cyclical chord movements that veered between quiet and loud, fierce and delicate, with jaw-dropping precision. The way the band reconstructed their songs, starting slowly from the ground up and building the whole thing to a mind-bending crescendo crashland, was thrilling to behold.
Propelled by the formidable twin guitar attack of Takaakira “Taka” Goto – the group’s founder and main composer, stage right – and Hideki “Yoda” Suematsu, Fender Stratocaster, stage left – songs like Ashes In The Snow and Everlasting Light, from the 2009 Steve Albini produced Hymn To The Immortal Wind, burned with potent intent, all beautiful, brutal and ecstatic in equal measure. Everlasting Light‘s big finish was particularly mesmerising, a monolithic (pun intended) slab of one note distorted guitar noise that rivaled My Bloody Valentine’s famous “apocalypse” section on their classic breakthrough track You Made Me Realise. The only thing missing in this most epic of climaxes was the violent strobe light attack to complete the total freak out effect.
Both clad in black and playing at times like men seemingly possessed by the huge pedalboards that their guitars were plugged into, Taka and Yoda made for engaging viewing with their hair swinging, shoegazing histrionics despite being sat on drum stools for the entire show. Whoever that said that post-rock bands lacked charisma on stage has obviously not seen Mono live.
Standing centre stage also dressed in black was the siren-like Tamaki Kunishi, the band’s icy cool bass guitarist, pianist and occasional guitarist who spent most of the show swaying to the sonorous sound of her beautiful vintage SG bass as if in a trance when she wasn’t posted at her keyboard. Behind her, drummer Yasunori Takada kept a steady, almost tribalistic beat going throughout, the solid, unwavering bed on which Mono built their towering, majestic songs.
Playing as a tight, cohesive unit with an almost telepathic synergy between them, Mono skilfully transported listeners deep into an enthralling maelstrom of drums, bass, keyboard and guitars on brooding, slow build songs like Death In Rebirth and Requiem for Hell. Mono’s sonic brew is part shoegaze, part neo-classical and all about the power of group dynamics, of which the quartet has a firm understanding, and on sprawling, epic songs like Recoil, Ignite, from their 2014 album Rays of Darkness, and Halycon -my standout of the set on the night – their mesmerising interplay really came to the fore.
Watching Mono cast post-rock spells onstage at Badlands felt at times, like a privilege, like we were being granted access to observing true masters of the craft at work. Sunday night, well, it rarely gets as exciting as this.
Photos by Q