Opener "16.12" begins peacefully. I had to turn up the volume on my headphones because after a minute, all I could hear was the sound of wind and maybe a couple of violins playing softly. A couple of minutes later, I was listening to some electronic ambient noises. I turned the volume up higher, but I'll be honest: by the time the guitarist started plucking out the song's melody (three and a half minutes in), I had drifted into a peaceful sleep...
I woke up exactly three minutes later (I checked the track info on my Discman) and I was sweating, grinding my teeth, and the loudest guitar noise I could imagine was abusing my ears. Eight and a half minutes into "16.12", the prettiest riff I had heard in ages had become the soundtrack to my nightmares. The guitar sounded like it had accidently been plugged into a microwave oven, and the drummer sounded like he was playing an oversized drum kit with sledgehammers. Whoa. This is some epic shit.
Can you handle an hour of this? I couldn't. It had to be broken down into carefully planned listening sessions, wherein I tackled each nine minute piece after a hot cup of coffee and a good night's rest. "Halcyon (Beautiful Days)" starts off slow and melancholy; it could be the intro to a Beck song from Sea Change. Then it happened -- it always does. This time it was at the five minute mark: Bam!. You will ask yourself, "Why did I turn up the volume again?"
Mono singlehandedly redefines the concept of dynamics. They are very quiet, and then very loud. It will hurt your head. "A Thousand Paper Cranes" attempts to tell the story -- in the band's musical vocabulary, as all of Mono's songs are instrumental -- of a girl who has contracted leukemia from the effects of the Hiroshima bombings. This piece, like the ones that preceded it, is a long, patient journey. It is lush and heavily orchestrated, using a vibrating guitar sound to build a slow moving ambience over its sparse piano melody. You will dream of this song, and your dreams will be warped and horrifying. Is that what you want?