Intensity has rarely felt so intimate…
Mono - The Last Dawn

At this stage of their career, Mono don’t take missteps. The Japanese instrumental quartet has established itself as a reliable source of stirring post-rock, makers of some of the more emotions-destabilising sounds to follow Mogwai’s (and others’) popularising of gradual builds breaking into widescreen guitars.

But the band can still surprise, as it does twice over on this release. Firstly, as its title implies, ‘The Last Dawn’ / ‘Rays Of Darkness’ is a double album, studio sets seven and eight, split between states of mind. “There were black and white sides inside of me,” says guitarist Takaakira Goto, explaining this approach. “I felt they could not exist on the same album.” So while the combined 10 tracks can easily be listened to in the same sitting, there’s a distinct tonal shift between the closing title track of ‘The Last Dawn’ and the ‘Rays Of Darkness’ opener, ‘Recoil, Ignite’.

On both sets – sides, if you like – openers come in at epic lengths. ‘Recoil, Ignite’ is the longest of the lot, seven minutes of exquisite teasing finally exploding into a final five of terrific tumult. ‘The Land Between Tides / Glory’, its counterpart, isn’t as fiery but certainly doesn’t lack for drama as it spills a central crescendo across 11 stormy minutes.

The second surprise comes on ‘The Hands That Hold The Truth’, the penultimate piece of the overall affair. For the first time in their recorded history, at least, Mono draft in a vocalist, Envy’s devil-throated Tetsu Fukagawa. The result is something like ‘Oceanic’-era Isis, beautiful and cataclysmic at once. Elsewhere, the gorgeous shimmer of ‘Cyclone’ and cinematic peaks of ‘Where We Begin’ serve as reminders that few acts do this kind of thing with as much class.

Fifteen years on from their formation, Mono might well have settled into an easy cycle of production and release, touring and recording, effectively repeating successful qualities without pushing themselves to further their art. But ‘The Last Dawn’ and its more menacing companion prove that wherever there’s space to grow in post-rock, Mono is the band to exploit it. Intensity has rarely felt so intimate.


Words: Mike Diver

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