Beautiful overdrive

It’s probably easiest to read a review of mono’s Hey You E.P. first. There’s a lot of description about mono’s basic aesthetic there that would be redundant if repeated here.

Go on. Click on the link. You can do it. Come back here when you’re done. We’ll be waiting.

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Done? Good.

Under the Pipal Tree, mono’s full-length debut album, offers pretty much the same thing. In fact, two tracks from Hey You E.P. — a re-recording of “Karelia” and “L’America” — appear on the album.

After the kinetic opening of “Karelia (Opus 2)”, Under the Pipal Tree venture into some pretty ambient territory.

“The Kidnapper Bell” contains much of the same echo-y, U2-Edge-like foundation of “Karelia” but with a slower tempo and a more organic build. “Jackie Says” hinges on a four-measure hook that undergoes a slow metamorphasis but never loses its identity.

mono allows listeners a few repreives from its larger dramatic gestures by keeping “OP Beach”, “Holy” and “L’America” under wraps.

And when the band concludes the album with “Human Highway”, they reach their peak quickly, then fade out over a three-minute stretch.

mono takes a single harmonic rhythm, sometimes no more than four chords, and builds miniature epic works not too distantly related to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero in its sense of dynamics and layering.

As a result, the 63-minutes occupied by Under the Pipal Tree feels much shorter. mono do such a tremendous job creating drama from minimal source material, it makes minimalism, the high-minded compositional technique, feel totally accessible.

Philip Glass and Steve Reich ought to write pieces of this Japanese quartet. Or perhaps, mono ought to show Glass and Reich a few pointers.

Under the Pipal Tree expands on the beauty forged by Hey You E.P. into a dramatic work as gorgeous and introspective as it is aggressive and grotesque.

Here’s an instrumental band that makes overdrive a thing of beauty.