This article originally featured in the November 2021 issue of Connect.
Release date: September 17th, 2021
By Ryon Morrin (Hokkaido)
For the past twenty-two years, Tokyo’s MONO has been crafting grandiose soundscapes. They write music that links serene moments of calm and room-filling walls of sound. Although often considered to be a part of the post-rock scene, MONO aims to transcend any labelling of their lusciously melodic, emotionally powerful music.
On Pilgrimage of the Soul, the tone is consistently sombre and dark throughout, with brief breaks into periods of resolution. These moments are deeply satisfying after the bleak, sorrowful sounds that had come before, but they are not to be mistaken for happiness; rather, they are a taste of closure after a traumatic experience, or a temporary resurfacing from the depths of a deep depression. This is not a “feel good” record; it contains little warmth or brightness. Those feelings are seldom and fleeting. However, within the darkness of Pilgrimage of the Soul exists a raw, unfiltered beauty.
Though purely instrumental, MONO is capable of heavily influencing the emotional state of listeners. Many tracks sound gargantuan in size, an effect partially created by thickly applied reverb and delay on lead and rhythm guitars. They often feel overwhelming and the feelings they inspire are impossible to fight off; an ideal setting for this record is a dimly lit room with a place to lay down and focus on the changing state of the heart. Often beginning as a gentle whisper, songs like “The Auguries” slowly build up to crescendos that are impossibly dense and crushingly loud. In truth, Pilgrimage of the Soul is a tragic film that will bring even an iron heart to tears. “And Eternity in an Hour”, with its gorgeously melancholic piano and string arrangements, would fit perfectly as part of a film score.
Without uttering a single word, MONO pour out the contents of their hearts into each song on Pilgrimage of the Soul, writing an ambiguous story of profound grief and despair. It is filled with scenes of all-encompassing sadness, genuine fear, and blinding anger, the most punishing elements of the human experience. But when these moments pass, they are replaced by concluding feelings of acceptance, relief, and sometimes, triumph for having survived the most gruelling battles in life.
You can stream Pilgrimage of the Soul now on Spotify.
Ryon Morrin is a 3rd year ALT based in Shintotsukawa, Hokkaido. In his free time, he enjoys discovering new music, hiking in the mountains, and playing rhythm games at the arcade.