Over the years, Japanese quartet Mono have made some of the most staggeringly beautiful and heartfelt music. That they have done so within the confines of the post rock genre has perhaps hindered them a little, because to the untrained ear (and to be truly honest, the trained ear too) post rock’s signifiers are so well worn and tired now that unless it is done with utter perfection, it is all too easy to dismiss as all sounding pretty much the same.
Mono have however, always managed to produce music that sits comfortably alongside the genre’s big hitters. Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor might be the first couple of names that spring instantly to mind when thinking of post rock, but Mono should most definitely be spoken about with the same reverence afforded to those particular groups.
For My Parents finds Mono continuing to move further away from the basic post rock template (delicate delay soaked introductions lasting seven minutes, life affirming explosive crescendos, and so on) and employing the services of the Wordless Music Orchestra to fill out their already impressive sound. Mono has already worked with WMO on their 2010 live album Holy Ground where they performed material from their back catalogue. For My Parents represents a far more intertwined collaborative effort and as a result, Mono’s more usual post rock approach becomes something much more expansive.
The addition of the orchestral sections is certainly nothing new, but it is handled perfectly throughout the album, leading from the front rather than letting the shimmering attack of Mono’s guitars take centre stage. For the most part, the album is set to “epic” and it is not unreasonable to suggest that For My Parents takes on an almost filmic quality. The conceit of writing a soundtrack to an imagined film is an old one, particularly in post rock circles, but that is apparently not the idea behind For My Parents. Instead, this album is perceived as a gift from the band to their parents as a kind of thank you and an audio representation of the love that a child feels for its folks.
Listening to the album, it is only possible to conclude that Mono and their parents have had some pretty incredible adventures together. There’s nothing here that would fit on The Road soundtrack, thankfully. Instead, many of the songs (and opener Legend is a good example) seem to have come from the Howard Shore school of composition and suggest that the band has been away fighting trolls fairly recently. Huge swathes of uplifting, chest beating, and grandiose magnificence populate this album, and it is almost impossible not to get swept up in the sheer pomp of the performance.
There are moments of contemplation too, naturally. Nostalgia makes sure that the introspection box is firmly ticked, but even that evolves into a colossal outpouring. There are numerous motifs and signifiers littered across For My Parents. There’s military percussion, and guitar bombast that gives an occasional flavour of struggle (and a hint of Final Fantasy VII). There are nods to the likes of Holst‘s The Planets, and possibly a grab of Flying Without Wings to keep the mums happy.
Mono has evolved considerably over the last few years, and with this album, they’ve taken a step towards becoming something much more than a simple post rock band. From conception, through orchestration to performance, this is essentially a classical album. Most importantly though, as a gift for parents, this would be perfect.