mono: You Are There

It was easier being a mono fan back in 2000. The band was just starting out, and their earth-shaking sound held so much potential.

Six years and numerous releases later, it’s easy to anticipate to course of a mono piece. Slow, quiet start. Slow, gradual build. Big, destructive climax. Repeat. Conclude.

As expansive as the group’s pieces are, they’re certainly confined to a very specific set of parameters. So how can the band make one album distinctive from the other? The easiest answer is not to.

You Are There offers no surprises. Guitarists Takaakira Goto and Yoda still coax ethereal textures from their arsenal of pedal effects, and the band still loves the glacial build to ear-crunching volume.

It’s the Enya Effect — mono records the same album again and again, but there’s just enough beauty and slight variation on each to keep a listener’s attention.

You Are There has the distinction of containing some of the longest works in mono’s repertoire. In the past, the 15-minute epics would be spread out among relatively shorter (3- to 7-minute) works.

This album contains only six tracks, but 2/3 of them span more than 13 minutes. Why such the long tracks? Because this time around, mono is putting more into their pieces without resizing their proportions.

At its heart, mono is incredibly minimalistic — they milk as much material as they can from the most slim of foundations. It’s one thing to play the same four chords over and over again. It’s another to elaborate on those four chords for marathon stretches of time.

The music is as slow as ever, but where one piece starts is seldom where it ends up, and a listener never knows it until far into the change. The 15-minute "Yearning" starts in a compound meter, but at the piece’s apex midway through, the meter changes. And it seems it’s always been that way.

As familiar as mono’s albums are becoming, the ambition of You Are There can’t be overlooked. These longer pieces have a classicism to them reminiscent of symphonic works. They’re just played really loudly on electric guitars.

You Are There doesn’t demonstrate any sort of leap, giant or otherwise, in the development of mono’s music. Then again, who’s not to say any changes to the band’s aesthetic is perceivable by normal time?