Mono - Nowhere Now Here (Pelagic Records) 2019
Ten albums in is a bold time to be making some changes, but that’s exactly what has happened in the MONO camp. With the departure of Yasunori Takada in 2017, they lost a major part of their perfectly-honed dynamic and, with his replacement in the more hard-hitting, brusque Dahm Majuri Cipolla, Nowhere Now Here could have been a make-or-break record. Still, thanks to a focus on stronger, more dynamically invigorating compositions and to Steve Albini’s mastery of the heavier side of the spectrum, it is an album that slots neatly into their evolution.
There are frequent nods to the distant past, with the title track’s fire and bluster swirling ecstatically around Taka Goto and Yoda Suemetsu’s twin-guitar cyclones that have been part-and-parcel of the band for two decades, but it’s the subtle shifts in sound which gives Nowhere… something of a true identity. The most apparent is undoubtedly Tamaki Kunishi’s understated vocals on “Breathe” which, although it isn’t the first time they have attempted this, definitely provides a more human element to a band who have always sounded more like the wild beauty of a blizzard that of any human construct. On the other hand, the increased presence of more conventionally melodic constructs, especially those which drive “Far and Further” and “After You Comes The Flood”, sometimes threaten to push the band back into generic post-rock tropes, but it’s to their credit that even with their new dynamic, they have been so seamlessly integrated that they loan their power to the music’s flow, rather than stealing the spotlight.
Anyone looking for a major style change from MONO will have to wait, but those who have lapped up the emotional roil and chill of their releases thus far will undoubtedly be walking away from this record happy, moved and eager for another spin.