"Just to avoid confusion, this is not the UK band that released "Formica Blues" a few years ago but a Japanese instrumental band. (I haven't heard the CD, but it's on John Zorn's label so it's probably cool.) The UK Mono's singer Siobhan De Mare is now in a band called Violet Indiana (with former Cocteau Twins Robin Guthrie), which you should certainly check out if you miss Mono."
Washed out Psychedelia and Luscious Kitten Drip
christopher eaton | Oberlin, OH | 01/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, a good deal of the praise for Mono's debut (?) effort, Under the Pipal Tree, should go to Tzadik label owner John Zorn. I don't have any idea how involved he is as a producer, but I do know that the packaging, liner notes, art and information provided for all the recordings Tzadik puts out are first-rate. Zorn also provides the great social service of supporting young and undervalued experimental musicians and making their voices heard.That said, Under the Pipal Tree is an arcing, melancholy haunting of an album. Their Tzadik press write-up names artistic influences Sonic Youth, John Fahey and the Grateful Dead. My overall impression of the record was definitely akin to hearing Sonic Youth at their most psychedelic. But when Sonic Youth decides to hit that brick wall, Mono softens the edges, blurs the lines. The result is just as emotionally engaging, but instead of youthful catharsis, it is more like artful wilting in oblivion. There is evidence of technical talent that I don't immediately equate with Sonic Youth: check out the crazy time changes on 'Of Beach.' Also, that track's extreme slowness suggests the otherwordly noir of late guitarist John Fahey's work, from his spaced-out acoustic dirges to his later experiments with electric tonality. The entire album's psychedelia definitely suggests some sort of mutation of those Dead-like qualities of transcendent structure and epiphanies. It is updated, however, to a newer, 2002 socially-aware (i.e. not primarily drug-based) transcendent quality. The hopeful whispers through bleak delivery" technique of songs like 'L''America'are more reminiscent of postmodern idealists Godspeed You Black Emperor and spin-off band A Silver Mt. Zion than, say, 'China Cat Sunflower.' In its own, the record captures some sort of primal condition. You can hear the rush and excitement behind the tidal swell. The breathing underneath the lush guitar work and precise drumming. The way it washes over you like a laundromat. Mono create seamless textural landscapes that lull you to a sleep infested with the vespertine. The black bulb of the washer on the spin cycle. Dig?
What have we learned from this record? That post-rock, though sometimes cheesy, is one of the newer genres of music that is actually experiencing any sort of innovation. Pick up Mono's Under the Pipal Tree and spend a night at home thinking about your old girlfriends and eating Chinese food. It's better than any Radiohead album, but that said, I really don't like them."
Nathan B. Hyatt | San Francisco | 05/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mono have grown with each release, but their first album is also amazing. You must appreciate subtlety and silence, as well as brazen volume and guts spilling out onto the pavement. Some of the songs are simple, speaking from a purely theoretical point of view (ie, two chords, back and forth), but the effect is hypnotic and luminous. Gorgeous music, emotional as your first heartbreak, and for fans of the wailing guitar. In many ways, Japan's Mono make better American Psychedelia than any American band, taking the pioneers like Jimi Hendrix to absurd extremes. The drummer is absolutely amazing; his placement of the kickdrum is at times genius; you never thought a drumbeat could be so sad, but when the kick comes in on the second track, you really feel it; right here. And right there. Yes, silence is a large part of Mono; they will drop the volume down to inaudible for a while before kicking it back up; it's part of the yin and the yang, don't you know? In the end, this music is about growth and dynamics, in other words Change. It's not about making you feel good about your current state; it's about making you long for something Other. Now go and find It."
Very Good Debut, with two particular standouts
Russell G. Wight | Philadelphia | 04/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album shows Mono at its infancy and only beginning to realize its creative powers. The album starts with'Karelia (Opus 2)' is definitely a powerful opening number, and even though it is essentially the same three chords played over and over again, Mono makes it interesting through their creative use of effects pedals. This song, as well as the next song, 'The Kidnapper Bell', demonstrate that even at this stage, Mono has a solid mastery of the many textures and sounds that their pedals can produce. This is generally why I favor Mono over Explosions in the Sky, as Mono's tonal variety makes for a very captivating listen, while all of Explosions in the Sky sounds the same.
The next four songs go over just fine, but they all pale in comparison to the Album's real standouts: 'Error #9,' and 'L'america.' 'Error #9' in particular is simply gorgeous. The way the introduction is played almost sounds like heavenly angels floating through a mist, and the guitar enters with a stunning repetitive melody. The guitars buildup, with Mono using their effects pedals to produce just the right sound, and then it all dies down, returning to the heavenly ambience of the beginning. Then all of a sudden, the guitar melody returns as a beckon of hope, and all of the sudden, everything crashes into a powerful guitar symphony, completely overwhelming the listener. Finally, after a few minutes, the magestic guitars trail off and the listener is left with the beginning melody, then that ends, and all is left is the ambience, trailing off into oblivion.
'Error #9' is followed by 'L'America,' which quiet and comtemplative. In a sense, it's almost a refleciton of the previous song, chilling out the listener from the previous numbers majestic heights. It's a solid number, and in the same vein of 'Sabbath,' off of their next album.
Overall, this is an excellent debut album, and is definitely worth the price of admission for Error #9 alone, and it demonstrates that even at this early point in their career, Mono is capable of expressing tremendous emotion in their music, demonstrating further that music is really a form of art."
Andrew | Michigan, USA | 01/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brooding with such organic honesty and might, where does one begin to review such art? Although this is one album amongst a hundred others in the "post-rock" arena, I believe it's fair to say it's one of the best. I, like most others reading this review, enjoy the beauty of acts such as Godspeed and Explosions, yet am continuously searching for similar music that is passionate rather than stale or studied. Well, Under The Pipal Tree is one such releases.
It's rather irrelevant to go through the album by tracks, although necessary to develop just what exactly the album sounds like, so I will attempt to find a happy medium. For starters, this is climatic music, though subtle. All seems to have been carefully manipulated; Mono avoids climaxes that are forced resulting in extremely natural, yet extremely chaotic, progressions within the songs. Every song is minimal, and thankfully so; a dam within this album's flow would ruin it, no doubt. The minimalism adds power and depth ... in the beginning the melody will grab your heart and at the end it will tear it out. Beautiful? Indeed.
With a couple of guitars, a bass, a kit and some cello thrown in for good measure, Mono have created a work that is valiant, beautiful and ultimately glorious. You'll find no jazzed-up productions here; simply raw music with its heart upon its sleeve, to grab yours along for the ride. Buy this record as soon as you can."