World peace: That's all Mono wants from us. Not exactly the sort of dead-serious mission statement you'd expect from a band whose bombastic, firework finale of a second album is called One Step More and You Die.
"It's been great to experience the new meetings across the borders, over different cultural backgrounds or different languages," explains lead guitarist Taka Goto via e-mail. "They eased our anger and frustration, and awakened us to open our eyes wide. So we started thinking about what we could do as a Japanese band, to show our appreciation and [share] our opinion of ending any wars happening on the earth."
Ambitious? Sure. Naive? Maybe. Either way, Mono went into its third LP with good intentions and emerged with an even better sound one that's as fragile as a glass menagerie, yet carries the emotional heft of watching a friend or family member bleed to death before you on a slab of cold concrete. One of the ways Mono achieved this was by accentuating their pensive, softer side opening up patient, plodding spaces in each song and filling them with weeping guitars or washes of contemplative, classical tones from a string quartet. Turns out the five-year-old band has been listening to a lot of composers lately, from the spaghetti-Western scores of Ennio Morricone to the think pieces of Henryk Górecki.
"I wanted our album to have the same texture of the symphonies of Beethoven," says Goto. "Our favorite composers speak human emotions more than any words can."
Fair enough. Like its labelmate Explosions in the Sky, Mono is much more than a post-Mogwai instrumental quartet of quiet/loud dynamics, of riffs that batter and caress speakers' cones like heavily-treated sine waves. They're storytellers first, as evidenced by the haiku-long title of that third album (Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined) and its heavy-as-hell subtext of hope and healing, anguish and death.
The central narrative is taken from the traditional Japanese story of Sadako, a radiation victim of Hiroshima. As her body struggled to stay beating and breathing, her friends supposedly crafted a thousand paper cranes as a symbolic (or superstitious, depending on your view) way of wishing she'd get well. Aside from providing a general thematic canvas to paint notes and chords upon, her tale is told through the mournful piano melodies of the closing track "A Thousand Paper Cranes" and the red origami paper Mono actually packaged with the vinyl version. Yes, Goto's newfound optimism for humanity goes so far as hoping we'll fold our own wishes into paper cranes.
"There's a belief that a wish in a crane would be answered when a thousand cranes were made," explains Goto. "If it's too hard for you to fold a crane, you can make use of the paper as memo or letter to your friends. We believe one tiny wish, thinking of someone you care, would eventually end wars."
with Bellini and LKN
9 pm Thursday, October 6