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Mono - The Last Dawn CD (album) cover

THE LAST DAWN

Mono

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.05 | 39 ratings

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BrufordFreak
5 stars Mono. From Japan. How this band stays beneath the radar I have no clue. Master 'storytellers' with their musical soundscapes, their music is always meditative, deeply emotive and, despite seemingly 'simple' song structures, the band always performs at a flawless level. I realize that Post Rock is not for everyone--and I rarely find a Post Rock album to be worthy of the "masterpiece of all-time" status--but this dedicated, focused, persevering Japanese band may have achieved such a status with this 2014 release. And, with the inclusion of its companion release, Rays of Darkness, the deal may be sealed. As described on their Facebook page, The Last Dawn is the "lighter" of the two albums and probably the more melodic and "prettier" of the two. It also reveals a scaled-back, slimmer lineup of musicians when compared to their releases in the mid and late Naughties. Yet the two 2014 releases offer quite a variety of instrumental companions --piano, tuned percussives, strings, trumpets, death metal "growl" vocals--all the while remaining firmly reliant on their one consistent and remarkable trait: the heavily effected tremolo strummed electric guitars of Hideki "Yoda" Suematsu and Takaakira "Taka" Goto. The influences of Minimalists like Henryk Górecki, soundtrack artists like Ennio Morricone and Lars von Trier, and shoe gaze innovators like Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields are quite evident throughout the album(s).

The Last Dawn starts out rather sedately with the quiet, spacious, rather low-key, "The Land Between the Tides/Glory" (8/10). The song begins its post-rock climb to climactic release in the third minute but then falls slowly and delicately after the seven minute mark--which, I think, marks the end of the "Glory" part of the two-part song. (Is this song--or album--an eulogy to WWII Japan?)

2. Katana" (6:21) (10/10) marks one of the most beautiful post-rock melodies/songs I've ever heard--a feeling that continues through the next three songs, 3. "Cyclone" (6:24) (10/10) with its awesome bass grounding throughout and amazingly sustained peak at 3:00, and 4. "Elysian Castles" (8:11) with its gorgeous piano-based Japanese folk melody and ever-so delicately woven guitar and cello threads (10/10).

5. "Where We Begin" (7:25) just sounds a little bit old and tired--like an old U2 song that pulses and rocks but never really goes anywhere. (7/10)

6. "The Last Dawn" (8:37) contains some extraordinarily beautiful, slowly developing three-part threads woven into a rather brilliant and unusual harmonic tapestry. At 2:45 an almost Gospel plea arises momentarily from the tremolo-picked lead guitar but then just as suddenly disappears. The weave deconstructs down to just one single instrument by the four minute mark before being reconstituted with sliding blues-chords, crescendoing cymbols and chime-like two-note arpeggi. Gorgeous yet understated. The power and strength established by the seventh minute sustain themselves through toward the end of the song, the end of the album, but then quietly dissipate as if into the night mist. Really emotional! So powerful and yet not over-the-top or bombastic. Masterful. (9/10)

Again, I am not sure of the "story" Mono are trying to tell with the music on this album: end of the Japanese empire? end of Industrial society? end of human occupancy of planet Earth? Could be all or none of these. Regardless, the band has put together a collection of songs that convert power, grace, beauty, and loss with a kind of emotional impact rarely heard/felt in modern music. An album that really needs to be heard to be believed. And felt.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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