Mono knows how to set a mood and make you feel tingly with albums of quiet buildup saturated in orchestral rock. Tracks like “Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn” from 2009’s Steve Albini-produced Hymn to the Immortal World conjure vivid mental images of cold, desperate landscapes for me. These Japanese instrumental innovators stir grandiose emotion with their minimalist approach.
Catching them for the first time at the Middle East Club in Cambridge last night was no different. I’ve been engrossed in these undulating soundtracks recently and was emphatic to see them live. I’ve seen many punk, indie, metal, hardcore, and one comedy show at this venue—but this was the first time I’d seen it transformed into a symphonic hall. Takaakira Goto led the quartet with his hands occasionally lifting from the guitar frets to compose the band to a harmonious dissonance.
In 2014 they released companion albums The Last Dawn and Rays of Darkness. The latter of which they’ve simplified their wide assortment of instruments—opting for Goto’s dynamic strumming to guide the way. They opened their set with “Recoil, Decay” from this album, a track that begins with a crescendo to stir precarious instincts and ultimately give way to huge waves of rapid high notes and a whirl of jazzy Dadaist drums. This roughly 13 minute track put the audience on alert and fully aware of all five senses as if pushed into fight or flight mode.
Tamaki Kunishi commanded heavy, rumbling bass in her heels switching back and forth from the keyboard while Hideki Suematsu remained fully immersed head-down in his rhythm guitar. Deep soundscapes filled the speakers with serene echoing. Goto’s wide board of pedals and effects help him transform a seemingly simple guitar into a full orchestra that John Williams would envy. Their set of seven songs swooned over 80 minutes, introducing the new material into half of their set. The audience was under their dreamy spell, rightfully so.
Holly Hunt hail from one of the sunniest cities—Miami, FL—but brought the darkest, sludging tones with them to open the night. They’re a band so heavy that it was an experience of its own to stand in front of the speakers. The thundering bass could revitalize a stopped heart, induce orgasm … or both I suppose. Created by drummer Beatriz Monteavaro and bassist Gavin Perry the ethereal music is simple, but highly effective. They lock eyes continually to keep one another in synch to ride out the ideal wave of drone.