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Mono - Holy Ground: NYC Live with the Wordless Music Orchestra

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Artist: Mono

Album: Holy Ground: NYC Live with the Wordless Music Orchestra

Label: Temporary Residence

Review date: Jun. 11, 2010

Holy Ground, Mono’s sixth full-length album, was recorded live in 2009 at the Society for Ethical Culture Hall in New York City in celebration of their 10th anniversary as a band and also in honor of the release of their fifth album Hymn to the Immortal Wind. Mono played with the Wordless Music Orchestra, a 24-piece ensemble, and while a number of bands use the live orchestra as a shtick — adding some Hollywood strings and straightforward arrangements to their songs in some faux-attempt at musical legitimacy (orchestra = real music) — Mono’s music is symphonic to begin with, and Hymn itself featured an orchestra on the recording. Holy Ground then is not some simple exercise in adding some gravitas-by-proxy to Mono’s music.

This doesn’t make the music that much more interesting, but at least it’s coming from a genuine place.

Holy Ground is melo- and very much overdramatic music. Much like the other instrumental indie rock bands that truck in lulls and swells, Mono gets a lot of mileage out of quiet space and bombastic builds; it is the music of big moments, though all I can think of is Dillon, Texas, b-roll footage and radio announcers talking about Friday’s upcoming game. So linked is Friday Night Lights and Explosions in the Sky’s music in my mind that anything even approaching it just makes me think of Coach Taylor. Not surprisingly, Mono was drafted by Explosions in the Sky for the All Tomorrow’s Parties they curated a few years ago.

There is indeed a certain power to that post-rock formula. It lends itself to a feeling of inspiration, of bucolic scenery, and mostly, of grandiosity. Melodramatic instrumental music, however, is, on the whole, like a boring person that creates drama so he can have some kind of excitement in his life. I’m not trying to write off a whole genre of music, so this should be taken with a grain of salt, but the kind of instrumental music that feels just like it’s supposed to be the soundtrack to something is boring. It’s not active music. It sits there in the background, which may very well be its purpose.

I suppose not all music has to actively engage the listener and call attention to itself. If Mono are just trying to punctuate a moment rather than create a moment, then this is rather well composed. If not though, it’s just pure melodrama, and melodrama music is unengaging and symbiotic. It’s soundtrack music, and a soundtrack needs the emotions of the media to feed off of, and the media needs the soundtrack to enhance those emotions. Soundtrack music that isn’t really a soundtrack lacks a real emotional core. Holy Ground has its moments, but — like much of the music of its ilk — feels incomplete.

By Andrew Beckerman

Other Reviews of Mono

Under the Pipal Tree

Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined

You Are There

Hymn to the Immortal Wind

Read More

View all articles by Andrew Beckerman

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