MONO – Pilgrimage Of The Soul: Album Review

The eleventh album from Mono is a prime exercise in restful and powerful moods.

Release Date: 17th September 2021

Label: Pelagic Records

Format: CD / digital

The new album – Pilgrimage Of The Soul – is a portrayal of the last 20 years of our journey as MONO,” we’re told. That’s useful to know for any newcomers (cough, ahem…) to the Japanese outfit.

Pilgrimage Of The Soul was recorded and mixed – cautiously, anxiously, yet optimistically – during the height of the COVID- 19 pandemic in the summer of 2020, with one of the band’s longtime partners, Steve Albini. The new music continues the subtle but profound creative progression last heard on 2019’s Nowhere Now Here. We’re promised new electronic instrumentation and textures, and faster tempos that are clearly influenced by disco and techno. You’ll certainly sense those early on in Imperfect Things. However, the faithful will be rewarded with an experience that carries a strong MONO imprint.

Don’t be fooled, or even lulled by the dynamics of Riptide. An opening piece where you might wonder if it’s actually begun, yet after eighty seconds, you won’t need convincing. Eleven albums in, I think we can safely surmise that MONO have mastered the art of juxtaposition in the loud/quiet bits; the light and the shade, the whisper to a scream. It arrives very early as Riptide explodes after a brief ‘have they started yet’ moment of doubt. A sign too that they’ve delivered on the tempo promise too.

Despite the at times overwhelming power – the titanic shrill in The Auguries and Innocence sears itself into the brain – the thrill comes in the sheer beauty and magnificence of the more restrained sections. The first of which arrives with Heaven In A Wild Flower which has a distinct ‘hold your breath’ quality and a similarly distinct sense of when not to play. Unlike the opening track Riptide, the alarming jerk out of slumber never comes.

The tranquility of the first half of Hold Infinity In The Palm Of Your Hand eventually has to give vent to a sense of letting go. Hard to sustain that restraint across twelve minutes I appreciate. It still remains a piece that’s crafted exquisitely; calming and restful and even the intensity seems to be on a leash.

The highlight is the sustained tranquility of the closing piece, And Eternity In An Hour. Now, some Marillion fans might be arguing over the semantics after the outcry that’s erupted over the title of their upcoming album (An Hour Before It’s Dark(, but this piece simply doesn’t need a name.

The repetitive chiming piano notes and gentle sway of strings conjure up thoughts of the Monochrome album by Danny Cavanagh of Anathema. Totally restful and with an emotion strength and depth that defies the fragility of the arrangement. Less is definitely more and a clear sign of the next step in their evolution into one of the most inspiring and influential experimental rock bands in their own right.

Here’s Innocence from the album:

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