Tag Archives: post-rock

Music of transcendence: MONO in concert

Formed in 1999 in Tokyo, Mono developed into one of the most prominent names in post-rock music, releasing 9 much acclaimed albums over the last couple of decades, with their 10th studio album scheduled to be released early next year.

Post-rock, however, is too vague and restrictive a term to fully do justice to Mono’s unique soundscapes, which seem to spring from a different dimension, taking their audiences to hitherto unexplored worlds.  As an enthusiastic NME reviewer once put it: “Screw ‘Music For The People’, this is music for the gods.”

Indeed, as testified my Mono’s recent live performance in Athens, the band’s mind-blowing blend of experimental, ambient, and classical elements offers an experience that goes beyond mere musical satisfaction. The band’s dedication, seriousness and intensity signify some sort of musical ritual or initiation rather than just a live show, thus encouraging the audience to partake in a truly uplifting communal experience. Music, thus, seems to become a means to something higher rather than an end in itself.

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Mono’s guitar-based, lengthy instrumental pieces -kind of miniature ambient symphonies with rich dynamics and extensive use of reverb, distortion and delay effects- slowly take you in until you are, slowly but surely, completely absorbed into the magnificent and otherworldly atmosphere they evoke.

In the end, Mono’s music is about evolving, going deeper, and reaching higher. In a word, it’s about transcendence. As Takaakira Goto, the band’s lead guitarist, has put it: “Music is communicating the incommunicable; that means a term like post-rock doesn’t mean much to us, as the music needs to transcend genre to be meaningful”.

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The weird wave of modern Greek rock

Next to the much talked-about weird wave of modern Greek cinema runs another, slightly more obscure, yet powerful artistic current: the emergence of a rich and dynamic Greek stoner/psychedelic/post-rock scene that boasts a large variety of independent and highly original bands.

This vibrant scene didn’t just spring to life from one day to the next. On the heavy side of things, bands like Planet of Zeus or Nightstalker have long been successful in forging a solid sound and creating a dedicated following both within and outside of Greece, having toured and played in many festivals across Europe over the last years.

An interesting blend of stoner rock with the Greek folk (Epirotic, in particular) idiom is the case of Villagers of Ioannina City (aka VIC). One of the most promising bands that have emerged in recent years, they have created a distinctive sound resulting from the marriage of slow, heavy guitar playing and the use of clarinet, which carries with it emotional overtones associated with Epirotic music while allowing for explosive and highly virtuosic playing.

Meanwhile, the global rise of post-rock since the early 1990s (with names such as Sigur Rós and Mogwai) has also left its marks upon the Greek experimental scene. A surprising number of smaller -yet very capable and creative- groups (a selection of which you can find below) have slowly but steadily created a unique and diverse soundscape that reflects many of the frustrations and difficulties they are facing, while also encapsulating their creative urge and drive for change.

An excellent example of why limited means do not necessarily translate into compromise in quality is One Hour Before the Trip, a band I discovered during a recent visit in Athens.

Comprised of skilled musicians, technicians and visual artists, the Athens-based instrumental rock ensemble has managed to self-finance their own studio, thus maintaining total creative control (independently composing, recording and mixing their music) and producing exemplary albums such as their latest release Boarding Pass.

The weird wave of Greek rock is surely on the rise. Let it be a long trip ahead before it crashes against the shore…