Compilations / Mixes
MONO: Holy Ground: NYC Live With The Wordless Music Orchestra
The live recording documenting MONO's tenth year as a band doesn't depart dramatically from the group's signature style but MONO fans won't mind: Holy Ground: NYC Live With The Wordless Music Orchestra is eighty minutes of classic MONO, even if the famously huge sound produced by “Taka” Goto, Yasunori Takada, Tamaki, and Yoda is made even larger with the addition of a twenty-four-piece orchestra.
The opener “Ashes In The Snow” is as ravishing a piece as anything else the in the band's songbook, and—it hardly needs be said—as epic too, what with the alternating episodes of lyrical quietude and ecstatic climaxes. One can easily vizualize the looks of awestruck wonder that surely must have spread across the audience members' faces when the group brings the piece to a rampaging close. Here and elsewhere, the quartet's two-guitar attack weaves graceful lines in and around the orchestra's string playing. At times, the two elements unite, while at other times the strings form a silken counterpoint to the guitar playing. The later “Pure As Snow” revisits the soft-loud template by alternating a lovely episode that finds the guitar whispering alongside strings and bruising passages where the guitars immolate and the drums thunder. The elegant dirge “Burial At Sea” spotlights the band's delicate side, and shows how nuanced its playing can be when called for—not that there isn't fury too, as is clearly evidenced when the detonation strikes eight minutes in. “Are You There?” seduces listeners with pealing guitars and slow, swaying rhythms but not all of the songs opt for slow-building climaxes. Halfway through “Halcyon (Beautiful Days),” the tempo slows until the effect is almost slumber-inducing but just when it appears the group's opted for too much gentleness, a raging storm of molten guitars, drums, and strings hits.
With six of the nine tracks breaking the nine-minute mark, the band gets lots of room to stretch out and work its particular magic. The set list is carefully considered too, with quieter settings—“Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn,” a graceful setting for flutes, piano, and strings, plus “2 Candles, 1 Wish” and “Where Am I”—judiciously positioned after louder pieces to give listeners a chance to recover before the next attack arrives. Some listeners, in fact, might found the balance tips too much in favour of restrained passages but what they do, of course, is help the graceful epics hit harder. To further mark the event, Temporary Residence has accompanied the CD with a DVD that captures the ninety-minute performance in its entirety (there's even a 3-LP version available, in coloured vinyl no less).