Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Mono have improved with age. While the Tokyo instrumental quartet’s early work mimicked peers such as Mogwai, more recently they’ve forged their own sonic path toward top-tier status in the realm of postrock.
Recorded by longtime producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies), the song structures on “Hymn to the Immortal Wind,” their fifth studio full-length, are similar to those of 2006′s “You are There.” But what makes the seven new selections stronger and more dramatic is the 28-piece miniorchestra recruited for the album. Its impact is immediately felt on the gorgeous 12-minute lead track “Ashes in the Snow.” Opening with guitar and glockenspiel, the song slowly introduces strings, keyboards and flute before morphing into an awesome symphony of distorted, soaring guitars and thunderous timpani drums.
To simply tag “Ashes” as epic is an understatement: This is arguably the best Mono ever. The intense, feedback-drenched “Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)” and the short (by Mono’s standards), ethereal “Follow the Map” are memorable offerings as well. The uplifting “Everlasting Light” almost joins the list, but its over-the-top final flourish closes the disc on a tired note.
If cinematic, cascading postrock is your thing, “Hymn to the Immortal Wind” won’t likely leave your music player anytime soon.