Since their inception in 1999, and across ten albums Japan’s Mono have been an enlightening creative force, one that is never afraid to usher in new textures and layers in to their sound and adopt experimentation. Rarely sitting still in one straightforward sound, Mono have dabbled with a range from greater orchestration to more experimental and ambient aspects, and are a much beloved treasure as a result.
Latest release Nowhere, Now Here (Pelagic) encapsulates the totality of the band so well, both in that vein of change and in their characteristic sense of capturing a vivid and heartfelt sonic presence which balances and veers between fragility and comparative muscle. Hypnotic, dream-like post-Rock makes up the bulk of the sound, but amongst this it is unafraid to push the heaviness to monolithic post-Metal territory without warning, whilst at the other end of the spectrum dropping to pure minimalism elsewhere.
There is an ocean-like quality to the album, the mellow side giving an ambience much like the low tide delicately sweeping the shore; but it can just easily take you with a sudden crashing wave; case in point the sudden change part way in to the title track. The surprise introduction of Tamaki singing on the haunting ‘Breathe’ is a significant addition, as her wistful croon provides a ghost like echo, whilst ‘Sorrow’ shows an ambient electronica influence creeping in at its end.
This is an album that is meant to be presented as a whole, as a journey to lose yourself within. Nowhere, Now Here is an album that will make you feel so many things throughout its play time and is best experienced with undivided attention, perhaps on a solitary walk. In parts it will soothe, at times it will make you reflect, it will surprise, and in cases like ‘Parting’ may at times hit your emotions like a gut punch.
Nowhere, Now Here continues the band’s ever expanding palette with some degree of subtlety, but it is in its morose yet somewhat uplifting atmosphere, and its entrancing qualities, that it truly shines. Mono has always been a special and essential act, and Nowhere, Now Here is up there with the absolute best offerings in an already impressive catalog.
8 / 10