For a couple years now, Japan's Mono have been honing their craft to a precision. When they first arrived, they banged around and made a racket and while they had their crushing moments, their music didn't stand out as much from the wave of bands doing similar things. With Walking Cloud And Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered And The Sun Shined, they prove that they've harnessed all forms of control and have put together an album that plies the listener with tension and gives release at just the right times.
Comparisions could be made between Mono and any number of groups that do similar things musically. Explosions In The Sky work their magic with two guitars, a bass and drums while the collective of Godspeed You! Black Emperor up the anti with a mini-orchestra on their epic crescendos. Mono does somewhat similar things with 4 members, while also mixing in bits that draw from an almost classical vein. Album opener 16:12 starts with mournful strings but soon starts into a marching track of guitars and raining cymbals that broadcasts a huge meltdown from a mile away but still sounds beautiful once it actually gets there.
On the other side of things, "Mere Your Pathetique Light" rides quiet waves of guitar feedback as a violin and aching guitar melodies play off one another. The track never reaches a fever pitch, but it works like a soft string quartet (if you replaced two parts strings with guitars) and is one of the better tracks on the entire release. "Halcyon (Beautiful Days)" is another track that floats by at the begining with delayed guitars and beautiful strings before dropping off into a quiet passage and then ultimately blowing out the end with a crushing finale.
The quiet/loud, quiet/loud thing has been going on for a long time now, and while Mono has things in common with everyone from Mogwai to the aforementioned groups, they're definitely one of the better bands I've heard doing this in awhile. Even when the group isn't making a racket (or even building up to making one), they create some very memorable music. The quiet album closer of "A Thousand Paper Cranes" is a perfect example of that as sparse piano chords mingle with shimmering guitars in a soft reprise that closes the album out nicely after a sometimes turbulent album.