Rarely am I lost for words when it comes to writing reviews, but I am yet to find one that adequately captures the musical brilliance of Mono. Transcendent, visceral and illuminating all come to mind, but as their electric guitarist Takaakira “Taka” Goto once stated, “Music is communicating the incommunicable… the music needs to transcend genre to be meaningful.” And transcend they did, relaying an experience that words fail to articulate. Perth was fortunate enough to bear witness to this musical majesty and I amongst it.
The night began just like any other gig at the Rosemount Hotel – people slowly trickling into the venue, the crowd a collective murmur as they waited for the first act to begin. Humble and unceremonious, a local armada of Perth musicians took to the stage with little introduction. Known simply as the Selfless Orchestra, the musical collective appeared an odd mismatch, each musician adorning a unique aesthetic style that seemed at odds with one another. Once they began to play, however, the multifarious group unified in cohesive beauty, a humble message of the beauty in diversity and inclusion. Sadness and hope seemed to exist simultaneously in the long-form epic that spanned the entire half-hour set. Melancholic tones were met with symphonic harmonies betwixt skilfully layered polyrhythms; musical depth a measure in abundance. Challenging the traditions of musical form, a cacophony of guitars, drums, pianos, strings and voices coalesced to create a rich fusion of classical music with contemporary flair. “A live cinematic tapestry”, Eden is Lost was powerfully evocative, the reverberating, sorrowful rumblings of the didgeridoo an undeniable statement about Australia’s blood-stained past. Musically, the piece was richly emotive and wonderfully orchestrated. Performatively, it was hard not to notice the guitarist’s need to refer to the pianist for their musical cues, a seeming lack of confidence in the knowledge of their own score. However, given the complex nature of the piece, it is not something I hold against them, as even I became lost in their musical mastery.
A seamless set change saw Jo Quail take the stage, the internationally acclaimed composer and virtuoso cellist a regular accompaniment on Mono’s international tours. Using nothing but an electric cello and looper, she wove majestically foreboding soundscapes that echoed throughout the venue, the inventiveness of which could only be described as astounding. Atonality was met with evocative orchestration and percussive beats, her performance straddling genres and forms to claim ultimate musical freedom. Eerie openings soon found themselves gathering momentum with polyrhythmic layers, rich orchestration soaring over the looped atmospherics created on stage. Thundering riffs with the occasional Celt-inspired inflection dominated the performance, the dark and twisted soundscape gradually revealed itself in a climactic fashion. Laments evolved into majestic hybrids of the classical and the contemporary, while each piece masterfully revealed hints of the musical evolution that was soon to be divulged. A symphony of menace and emotion, Quail’s performance was an incredibly passionate site to behold and not one easily forgotten by its witnesses.
Yet another smooth set change followed, making for way for the band we were all there to see. No introduction was needed for the Japanese four-piece, gracing Perth with their presence as they celebrated their 20th anniversary and 10th album release. With the addition of electronics to their musical repertoire, attributed by some to Taka’s recent collaboration with John McEntire, a new level of depth and complexity was found in their enchanting soundscapes as their musical world adapted to an ever-evolving audience. Performing songs from their latest album, it was clear that Mono had returned to the emotive power that garnered them such international acclaim with a new twist. An album embodying the simultaneous conflict and correlation between the “dark and light,” Nowhere Now Here also bore witness to the legends’ first line-up change in 20 years, with Dahm Majuri Cipolla performing as the band’s new drummer. Perhaps even more extraordinary was Tamaki’s vocal debut, ghostly and angelic with an ethereal edge.
Humbly walking across the stage, no words were spoken as they delved into the musical genius that is uniquely their own. Pummelling waves of lamented sound were met with melancholically beautiful passages, blending the timelessness of classical orchestration with the mastery of shoegaze guitar. Minimalistic openings soon transformed into complex orchestral arrangements with a delightfully heavy edge, demonstrating why their musicianship and diverse musical palette has eclipsed the rock genre to exist within its own domain. Perfectly capturing the sorrow of the human condition betwixt moments of joy, the emotional epics transcended all language barriers in the crowd as their dynamic soundscapes mesmerised all who stood in their wake. A beautifully atmospheric affair, the volume dial was treated like a weapon to create a musical masterpiece of sonic extremes.
What began as an unsuspecting Wednesday night in Perth was soon illuminated by the transcendental beauty of Mono. While they may be leaving this isolated city to take on the rest of our great nation, the timeless experience they left behind will linger until their return.
Upcoming Australian tour dates:
The Gov, Adelaide – March 5
Max Watts, Melbourne – March 6
Sydney Metro Theatre – March 7
The Triffid, Brisbane – March 8