There are acts that you need to see live and then there are acts that you need to see live. A sold out Sydney show and a night of sheer musical brilliance most likely indicates that Japanese tour de force MONO falls into the latter category.
A four-member Japanese act consisting of Takaakira “Taka” Goto (guitar), Tamaki (bass, keyboard), Yoda (guitar) and Yasunori Takada (drums), MONO is an instrumental rock band that was formed in 1999. Known for their raw and moving sound and use of intense dynamics during their lives, the influences of experimental post-rock, shoegazing, classical music and noise can all be found in their music. However, MONO first and foremost aims to create works that span the spectrum of human emotion, an aim that is not particular to any genre.
MONO kicked off the night with “Recoil, Ignite” from their 2014 album Rays of Darkness. A long and slow (but oh so good) burn, it was a fitting way to spark the live. What followed was a tight 84 minute set which included favourites such as “Kanata” (The Last Dawn, 2014), , “Halcyon (Beautiful Days)” (Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined, 2004) and “Ashes in the Snow” (Hymn to an Immortal Song, 2009) just to name a few. Like their individual songs, the storytelling and mood of the entire performance ebbed and flowed, soaring into highs before drawing back with breathtaking devastation.
Although lacking words of any sort, MONO’s sound speaks to all of those who hear it. It tells of human experience, stories and imaginings in time and pure emotion. By no means a big venue compared to some of the blockbuster music acts Sydney sees today, MONO’s music swelled, filling the room with a mesmerising command that only some music is able to achieve, and seemed to expand beyond the crowd gathered at the Newtown Social. When you listen to MONO, you see the big picture in stunning detail and vibrancy.
A treat for Sydneysiders, MONO reminded us why they have (and no doubt will continue to have) an illustrious career. MONO’s sound has often been described as cinematic, fit for big-screen epics – but it functions equally well as the soundtrack of the lives of each and every one of us.
Photos by Tony Proudfoot from MONO’s Corner Hotel concert