Tokyo quartet Mono started out as all-too-obvious Mogwai acolytes, but as the years have passed, they have become increasingly accomplished, with a brand of orchestral rock fusion that is entirely their own. They’ve been pretty prolific, racking up seven albums (including the stunning Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain, a collaboration with World’s End Girlfriend) since their 2001 debut Under The Pipal Tree.
Gone is a ten track collection that rounds up various non album tracks from the past seven years. It opens with a pair of cuts from Mono’s debut release – a limited run four track EP called Hey You that was issued in Japan in September 2000. Both “Finlandia” (not the Sibelius composition) and “Black Woods” are accomplished, if fairly derivative, takes on the quiet-loud dynamic. What they lack in originality, they make up for in spirit and ear-battering excitement.
“Yearning” is taken from a 2005 split twelve inch with Chicago epic hardcore act Pelican. It’s the longest thing here at more than fifteen minutes and benefits from the Steve Albini fairy dust that gives it a primal, earthy grit. It also acts as a kind of epic summary of the first stage of the band’s career. The seven later tracks on Gone all feature a string quintet or octet alongside the core quartet. Memorie Dal Futuro was a two song ten inch released in 2006 by the Vinyl Films label, and limited to 1000 black vinyl pressings, 500 white and 500 clear. The title track is a Godspeed-like blend of strings and guitars with the inevitable epic build. “Due Foglie, Una Candella: Il Soffio Del Vento” (two leaves, a candle: a breath of wind) from the same EP is a short, brooding piece – as is the lovely “Since I’ve Been Waiting For You”, originally recorded for a compilation album called Thankful.
The rest of Gone is comprised of the four tunes from The Phoenix Tree EP which came out last spring. “Gone”, the track that gives the album its title, is constructed like an overture. It has a simple refrain repeated and layered until it ends with an unexpected key change and fades into “Black Rain”, a beautiful, understated piece which, unusually for Mono, features vocals – a monologue in Italian spoken by Giovanna Cacciola. The band doesn’t appear on “Rainbow”, a short piece for the string section alone. Everything is rounded off with one of the group’s finest compositions, “Little Boy (1945-Future)”, which goes from a pretty music box melody to a crescendo of feedback over nine minutes.
Unlike most odds and sods type compilations, Gone works very well as a coherent album. It helps that Mono don’t seem to be the sort of band who are content to donate their cast-offs for EP projects and compilations, but come up with something especially for the occasion. It means that this is an album devoid of filler and one that stands well in comparison to any of their studio works.
1 Finlandia (8:07)
2 Black Woods (11:22)
3 Yearning (15:37)
4 Memorie Dal Futuro (9:38)
5 Due Foglie, Una Candela : Il Soffio Del Vento (3:47)
6 Since I’ve Been Waiting For You (2:51)
7 Gone (4:07)
8 Black Rain (9:17)
9 Rainbow (2:23)
10 Little Boy (1945 – Future) (9:28)