This collaboration with fellow Tokyo native and modern electronic composer World's End Girlfriend is a five-part sojourn of neoclassical grace and luminescence that defies lazy categorization. As dark as the bottom of the ... more »ocean and nearly as otherworldly, "Palmless" finds Mono inhabiting a magical world previously only hinted at in their most orchestral compositions. Forgoing their tendency to erupt into hellish bursts of speaker-destroying noise, Mono instead exhibits remarkable restraint, stretching song lengths past the 15-minute mark, turning barely-there crescendos into earth-shaking events. This record is a miniature panoramic view of the sea on an eerily still day, the current swaying at an impossibly lazy pace, and the sound of a thousand tiny waves crashing all at once.« less
This collaboration with fellow Tokyo native and modern electronic composer World's End Girlfriend is a five-part sojourn of neoclassical grace and luminescence that defies lazy categorization. As dark as the bottom of the ocean and nearly as otherworldly, "Palmless" finds Mono inhabiting a magical world previously only hinted at in their most orchestral compositions. Forgoing their tendency to erupt into hellish bursts of speaker-destroying noise, Mono instead exhibits remarkable restraint, stretching song lengths past the 15-minute mark, turning barely-there crescendos into earth-shaking events. This record is a miniature panoramic view of the sea on an eerily still day, the current swaying at an impossibly lazy pace, and the sound of a thousand tiny waves crashing all at once.
"...does this album have two reviews? Two. Two. Hmmm. Two.
Why does that upset -- nay, sadden -- me? Probably because 'Palmless Prayer' is, no joke, one of the most beautiful compositions I've ever heard. Really.
Two reviews... goodness. I will say, however, the only reason I sought out this album was because I heard someone else declare it to be levels above one of my most beloved bands -- Canadian post-rock 'Godspeed! You Black Emperor!'; the spite that immediately exerted itself, simply from another being putting 'Godspeed!' (qualitatively) at a lower level than any other particular musical force, was enough for me to seek out this music immediately... and so I did.
...and this guy knew what he was talking about, at least in part. No -- I will not be so bold as to praise 'Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain' an entity towering above the works of 'Godspeed! You Black Emperor'... no, I cannot do that, because, to my ears, it is not of a higher level. That said, I am both surprised and excited in being able to tout the album as reaching the same general level of greatness, because that greatness, in my experience, is not reached very often.
There are various reasons this music is haunting, but perhaps the most demanding virtue is its sense of drama; not often have I heard such sadness echoed in the form of music. At first, the sound was so unrelenting I had to take a giant step back, and proceeded to observe with skepticism, for anything this morose can so easily come off as narcissistic or, similarly, containing a mild amount of pretense. Yet, with further listens, it was obvious -- behind the seemingly 'artsy' surface, there is a permeating heart that, for me, breathes the most loving, sensitive of breaths... As a painfully somber cello segways into the angelic, minimilist notes that conclude "Trailer, 2", I sit in mere awe... Often, yes, I prefer to use words like "angelic" because they provide a powerful sentiment to anyone reading it, but admittedly I like to, at times, pull words out of the hat just to garnish attention (I want all good music to be heard!). In this case, words like angelic couldn't be more appropriate or sincere.
What's more, is that this composition really doesn't feel all that FRESH, so to speak; the more celestial sections recall ambient-master Brian Eno, the use of strings familiar to those exposed to a good deal of film music (the yearning of Tan Dun's 'Crouching Tiger'). "Trailer, 4", possibly my favorite of the elegies to be found here, is haunting and unforgettable [really]; its use of boy soprano absolutely pristine, drenched in a seriousness I rarely hear in any form of contemporary music; referring again to film (which, as the "trailer" titles in the tracks might indicate, the album has much parallels with), 'Mono/World's End Girlfriend''s use of vocals in this particular track remind me of the brilliant, (post?)modern classical/film composer Elliot Goldenthal (his works for 'Alien 3', 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, 'Michael Collins', etc.)... I.E., the guys' here are utilizing a formula that has existed before, but they lace it with such authenticity and deep emotion that its familiarity comes with grace and gratitude.
I'm about to check out both of these bands' other works; looks like they reside in the "post-rock" world, as far as vague categorizations go. Knowing this, 'Palmless Prayer' feels only slightly post-rock; it's too serious, too direct, and simply too draining to be compared to stuff like 'Explosions in the Sky' or 'Sigur Ros'. The sheer melancholy within compares with the best of 'Mogwai' and 'Godspeed!', and probably the most apt comparison to be made would be with 'Godspeed!''s run-off band, 'A Silver Mt. Zion', primarily because both flow to a slower tempo, provide more orchestral instrumentation opposed to guitar/bass/drums (piano/strings/soundscapes largely in place of), and on a very basic, real level, are simply more powerful.
Like 'A Silver Mt. Zion', one should probably tread lightly if they're not accustomed to such moods. It's all interpretive, of course; I have no question many would simply turn off the music after hearing it for a few moments -- "boring", a very likely response. Thus, or at least for me, it's a matter of willing the imagination to feel the pain endowed in the music, but never forgetting that birthed from this pain is a rapture of beauty too evocative, brimming with a hope that is hard to penetrate without first knowing the contrasting darkness. "
Nothing short of gorgeous
Aquarius Records | San Francisco | 09/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow. This collaboration between Japanese epic art rockers Mono and their equally arty countrymen World's End Girlfriend is nothing short of gorgeous. Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain is an absolutely breathtaking five-part mood piece that enshrouds the listener in looming desolate shadows cast by classically composed guitar, strings, piano, saxophone and even a fleeting vocal chorus. A staggeringly moving work definitely for fans of Godspeed You Black Mogwai or anyone else looking to have their jaw dropped by some seriously bleak beauty."
One of the Best Albums I Heard In 2007...
Example: Mark Twain | 11/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...although this was released in 2006, is MONO & world's end girlfriend's gorgeous Palmless Prayer / Mass Murder Refrain, a five-part chamber music suite, as it were, for string quartet and post-rock band. A collaboration between Japanese composer Katsuhiko Maeda and the thunderous Tokyo quartet that is MONO, the album is surely going to be one of my favorites of the year.
Doubtless a lot of music fans more knowledgeable than I would point to music from a different tradition--say, Shostakovich, Pärt, or Gorecki--as more complex, more profoundly moving. But the difference is that MONO rocks: the moment in "Part Three" when MONO's Mogwai-influenced wall of guitar comes crashing down on the orchestra is a cathartic sonic event, only made more poignant by the calm resignation of the finale.
It's hard to describe the widescreen sorrow at the core of this music. It's something as mundane as the inherent loneliness of automobiles stranded on the freeway at sunset. But the ineffable grandeur it evokes is not just exit music for a film, it's Exit Music for real: ruined cities, a threnody for the broken earth, the dying sun's last defiant flare before the beginning of a cold, dead universe. Or as C.K. Williams puts it in his poem "Light," "...everything ends, / world, after-world, even their memory, steamed away / like the film of uncertain vapor of the last of the luscious rain.""
Headphone Commute Review
Headphone Commute | 02/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album is probably the saddest thing I have EVER heard. By the time I get to the sequentially titled Trailer 3 (of a five part album), I'm almost shaking with grief, unable to comprehend how mere music can possess so much power of movement. I challenge anyone to sit through this marvel and rebut my pronouncement. Mono is a Japanese instrumental post-rock band, which appeared over and over on my charts throughout the years. With multiple releases on Temporary Residence Limited, Mono has developed their own staple sound as well as a group of loyal followers (including yours truly). On this collaboration they are joined by Katsuhiko Maeda, who releases under many names, most notable of them, World's End Girlfriend with excellent albums on Midi Creative / Noble. Maeda's sound is an unclassifiable potpourri of modern classical, experimental post-rock with a touch of electronic glitch, and he has also numerously appeared on my rotations. But on this album, Maeda leaves his micro processing behind to join Mono and create an acoustic requiem which grabs at your heart and does not let go until it squeezes every last tear. I have officially found music for my funeral. Yes, I want everyone to weep freely to this nonreligious, palmless prayer."
Impossible to describe: you have to experience it
Manny Hernandez | Bay Area, CA | 05/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are experiential works and this is one of them. If you have heard Japanese post-rock band Mono before, they are one of the two acts in here, but this album is not their most accessible or typical piece. The result of the blend of styles between them and World's End Girlfriend could be compared somehow to the sound that the soundtrack for "The Fountain" if, instead of Clint Mansell, it had been Rachel's doing the score portion and, of course, if Mono had done the post-rock work instead of Mogwai. If that makes any sense to you and you are still interested, then check out "Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain". If not, I still invite you to experience the 5 parts that make up this magnificent album: you will not be disappointed if you are willing to put in what it takes into the musical adventure it will take you on."