In the past, mono has been pretty dependable when it came to crafting hulking works out of minimal but melodic material.
For the most part, the band’s second album, One Step More and You Die, offers everything as before — extreme volumes, beautiful melodies, noisy harmonies.
But the album’s center piece, “com (?)”, doesn’t strike as deeply as such previous epics as “Karelia” or “The Kidnapper Bell”. The track doesn’t develop as organically, and by the end, it actually gets stuck. Maybe strumming only one chord for 16 minutes was a bad idea.
Since the song occupies a good third of the album’s entire 55-minute length, it leaves a lasting impression.
After that, the remaining tracks don’t seem to hazard the same kind of extremes. That doesn’t stop them from being beautiful in their own right.
“a speeding car” does a marvelous job of drawing inward before unleashing the full band. “loco tracks” actually features what could best be described as a “chorus” — and a really nice one at that.
The songs which work the most are the ones which remain introspective. “sabbath” would probably sound lovely if arranged for classical guitars.
“mopish moring, halation whisper” is actually the most interesting track on the album. By making it sound like a vintage vinyl recording, mono transforms its heavily-processed guitars into a small chamber orchestra. (At least, I think those are guitars.)
“halo” brings One Step More and You Die back closer to the missed intensity of “com (?)”, but then the album ends with a backmasked version of its introduction (“giant me on the other side”, which is based on “where am i”).
As such, it feels as if the album gets cut off before it has a chance to really hit its mark.
This time around, mono gets help from cellist Udai Shika, plus an occassional piano and glockenspiel. Those touches sweeten the general dark tone of the music.
mono still retain its tack for melody and texture, but their sense of structure takes a bit of a hit. Other reviewers have criticized the band’s previous work for showing too much of an influence by Mogwai.
It may be true that One Step More and You Die finds the band discovering its own voice, but the album isn’t as air-tight as what’s come before.