Among their post-rock brethren, Japanese loud-soft rockers Mono are perhaps the most disciplined and symphonic of all. Their devastatingly intense live shows are consistently among the very best concerts I've ever seen, and it seems I'm not alone in that sentiment. So, joining up with a full orchestra to perform for 2 consecutive nights in New York doesn't seem much of a stretch for this band.
Building with the string section in the opener, "Ashes In The Snow", Mono and the Wordless Music Orchestra lead into the swarming crescendos of "Burial At Sea", as the band rides a cascade of swirling noise and bombastic percussion. "Pure As Snow" is epic -- with mop-haired guitarist Taka Goto kicking over his chair and attacking his guitar and effects boxes with reckless abandon. My favorite, "Halcyon (Beautiful Days)" is as beautiful and majestic as it gets, with the orchestra enhancing the band's gorgeous melodies and crushing finale.
Mono's strength lies in their mastery of juxtaposing gentle, soft guitar lullabies with powerful waves of amped-up noise. Their music is simultaneously energetic, lilting, monolithic, gentle, cathartic, peaceful, savage, and sorrowful...yet it always finishes with unquestionable hopefulness and humble humanity. "Holy Ground" is possibly the group at it's pinnacle. Mixing by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, Soundgarden) brings the live experience up to par with the studio recordings, while the DVD is a no-frills (but multi-camera) affair that more accurately represents the live experience than their 2007 tour documentary, "The Sky Remains The Same As Ever". "Holy Ground: NYC Live" is a splendid package, and priced more than reasonably. It's a must-see for fans as well as those curious about Mono's blindingly evocative and gorgeous experimental rock. (Temporary Residence)