Sunday, June 30, 2024

Mono - Holy Winter

Just a few days after writing about Steve Albini and his seminal punk band Big Black in April, he unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. His music had a huge impact on me and my evolving musical tastes, showing me what sort of terrifying and aggressive sounds could be wrenched from the customary instrumentation of rock and roll. Beyond Albini’s influence on me personally, he had an immeasurable impact on independent music with his career as a recording engineer, recording the work of hundreds of notable musicians, including the Pixies, Nirvana, and PJ Harvey. He specialized in capturing the live sound of the band, with the recordings capturing the harmonics of the room they were recorded in, making it sound as if you were present with the band while listening to the recordings. And while Albini himself played loud and unpleasant music, he recorded music of all styles and sound, striving to make raw and genuine sounding recordings of whomever he worked with. And that brings me to the topic of today’s post, the song “Holy Winter” by the longstanding Japanese instrumental post-rock band, Mono. 

Mono has a long history of recording with Albini, starting with 2004's Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined, and ending with 2024’s Oath, which was recorded in February of 2024 with Albini at his Chicago Studio, Electrical Audio. As such, Oath is one of the last records that Albini recorded, adding an extra somber layer to the music, from a band that is no stranger to traversing fraught emotional territory. After Albini’s passing, the band posted a picture of themselves with Albini from the Oath recording session, relating how they have lost one of their heroes. Listening to Oath, it is nearly impossible for me not to think of Albini, and doubtlessly, I am not alone in that. Perhaps my favorite track from the album is called “Holy Winter”, a gorgeous piano-driven song that rises in intensity throughout its 7 minute duration, with achingly beautiful strings coming in at 6 minutes to close out the piece.

It is a huge loss to the musical community that Albini will no longer be recording, but at least we have amazing records like Oath to keep his legacy alive.

Buy Mono's music here.

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