We all have that one band who have completely changed our lives. Think back and you will be able to pin point it – the exact moment their music stopped you dead in your tracks and spoke directly to your heart in that special secret language.
For me, that band is Mono. This band can make me feel every single emotion in just one of their 10-minute-long instrumentals. When I first stumbled across them at a Boris show in 2005, and I could not believe my ears. Cinematic would be an understatement to describe their towering, reverb-drenched crescendos of sorrow and beauty.
Theirs is music that truly takes the listener on an emotive journey. Music that makes you think about everyone you’ve ever loved, and everyone you’ve ever lost. It is sentiment personified in shimmering soundscapes. Oh and it’s also crushingly heavy when it wants to be.
So without further ado, I present my top 10 Mono songs from the past 20 years.
1. Legend (from the album For My Parents)
With stunning melodies swathed in reflective, sustained strings, this song best encapsulates the dramatic romantic heights of Mono. Featuring backing violins and cellos by the Wordless Music Orchestra, Legend tugs on the heartstrings with a sense of sad nostalgia and yet also a hopefulness. It’s hard for me to listen to this song without welling up in tears, it is simply so beautiful.
2. Requiem For Hell (from the album Requiem For Hell)
Taking inspiration from Dante’s The Divine Comedy for inspiration, the title track of Mono’s ninth studio album sees the band return to working with Steve Albini to amass a huge sound. From its bittersweet plucked intro, through to its driving fuzzy middle, it’s a miracle this song does not collapse under the weight of its many intricate layers.
3. The Hand That Holds The Truth (from the album Rays of Darkness)
Rays of Darkness is possibly the heaviest Mono album to date, this record showcases a raw, stripped back sound. The Hand That Holds The Truth is one of the rare Mono songs to feature vocals, performed by the incredible Tetsu Fukagawa from Envy. His harrowed screams add even more power to what is perhaps the most intense song that Mono have ever written.
4. The Flames Beyond The Cold Mountain (from the album You Are There)
Beginning with somber, brooding melodies and delicate cymbal swells, this 13-minute long song certainly is a slow build, but when those trademark reverb-drenched tremolo guitars finally reach their peak – it is staggering.
5. After You Comes The Flood (from the album Nowhere Now Here)
A new Mono song from their latest album which they released earlier this year, After Comes The Flood is centered upon one seriously haunting guitar riff. The atmosphere they conjure on this song is dark and hypnotic, and builds into an insanely overpowering wall of noise. With new material this good, the future looks endlessly bright for Mono.
6. Everlasting Light (from the album Hymn To The Immortal Wind)
This song could be the soundtrack to the most beautiful sunset. It starts with sparse piano melodies echoing in soulful refrains above glassy guitars, then the emotive strings kick in. The overall effect is a unique kind of musical beauty that hurts in its sweetness.
7. A Speeding Car (from the album One More Step and You Die)
This track is from the first Mono album I ever owned, so it holds a particularly sentimental value for me. After a soft, innocent build up for 4 minutes, the song tremors beneath layers of fuzzy, shimmering guitar leads.
8. Yearning (from the album You Are There)
Best described as a serene soundscape, the delicate guitar lines in this 15-minute-long song sound so fragile. With the atmosphere lifting and falling in heartfelt ways, Yearning is capable of taking the listener on a vast and varied emotional journey.
9. Dream Odyssey (from the album For My Parents)
For My Parents is my favourite album by Mono. I adore the dreamlike orchestral movements that accompany the bands epic sound on this record, and the song Dream Odyssey is definitely one of the highlights of the album with its towering grandeur and sonic prettiness.
10. Human Highway (from Under The Pipal Tree)
Taken from their debut album, Human Highway is where you can first hear the seeds of Mono’s expansive sound beginning to grow and take shape. Marrying guitars and cellos with a hypnotic off-kilter drum beat, the song rises, crashes and falls back in the captivating way that only a Mono song can.
Mono will be celebrating their 20th Anniversary this December with a special series of gigs featuring Alcest, Boris, envy, Årabrot, Nordic Giants, A.A. Williams, Jo Quail, Floating Spectrum and, of course, Svalbard. You can get your tickets here.