Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Mono - Hymn To The Immortal Wind

With Hymn To The Immortal Wind, Japanese post rock group Mono have quite possibly delivered their masterpiece. Recorded and mixed in Chicago over the summer and winter of 2008 with legendary producer Steve Albini, Hymn To The Immortal Wind sees the band take their blend of shimmering post rock and merge it with a huge classical orchestra to create a vast, heavy but always beautiful album.

With seven tracks and a length of almost seventy minutes, Hymn To The Immortal Wind is unlikely to find itself played on many pop music stations. Instead this is an album that would find a better place as a film soundtrack. Full of epic peaks and powerful crescendos, violins and cellos marry in perfect symmetry with crashing cymbals, heavy timpani drums and layers of guitar noise. The tone is set on opening track Ashes In The Snow which gradually grows from a subtle and restrained birth to the sound of the world crashing in on itself. It is the evocative and cinematic nature of the music that brings imagery to mind so easily. On the tear jearking Follow The Map the listener can conjure a vision of a struggling hero crawling, hungry and exhausted through the storms trying to reach his destination.

With these references to immense strings and motion picture soundscapes one could imagine that Hymn To The Immortal Wind is simply an album of incidental music. This is not the case. It is certainly not a coffee table album. It is a cacophonous yet composed rock album, that demands the listener to immerse themselves in its textures; ideally alone with headphones in the dark.

If there is one criticism of Hymn To The Immortal Wind it is that the songs tend to follow a formula of slowly building quietness to grandiose atmospheric endings, but what a formula it is. Hymn To The Immortal Wind is an album that sets Mono above many of their post rock peers and takes them and the listener to a place far removed from the ordinary.

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