Envy / Mono
Insomniac Daze / You Are There
Temporary Residence / Temporary Residence
2006 / 2006
B / C+
orking in separate strata of post-rock, Mono and Envy have crafted remarkable catalogs of music that completely encapsulate genres. They’re not breaking the rules—they’re honing separate visions of musical perfection to fine points.
Envy, last seen by most on 2003’s transcendent A Dead Sinking Story, whittle the post-rock hardcore emo stick further on Insomniac Daze. That means there’s no instrumentals replete with grinding gears locking into a rhythm nor is there time for tracks that give five minutes to a rapidly disintegrating synth and Tetsuya Fukagawa’s phoned-in voice. In a word: Insomniac Daze is consistent. And probably worse for it.
While the aforementioned incidentals from A Dead Sinking Story were eminently skippable, they also provided much needed breaks from the crest and trough rock that Envy proffered elsewhere. There are no such moments of respite in Insomniac Daze—you’re brought up only to be taken down, down only to be brought up. By the end, you’d be excused if you felt a little jerked around.
Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad record—in fact, Insomniac Daze is a very good one. They’ve traded minor keys for major, “The Unknown Glow” gives you the payoff you deserve for holding on throughout its fifteen minutes, and “A Warm Room” is a stunner of a closer. Envy crafted a new genre by tweaking existing elements on A Dead Sinking Story, now they’re just adding one more addition to the canon. Everyone likes Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm,” right?
Better than “The Deep,” at least. Which is what comes to mind when listening to You Are There, Mono’s fourth full-length. One of Pollock’s later paintings, it utilizes a lot of the same old tricks, but also reveals promise for possible futures. Many moments remind of past glories, but never quite reach them. The album is the group’s second recorded by the soft hand of Steve Albini and much like its predecessor, the group relies less on the tried and true tricks of melodic build and release and opts for a more atmospheric approach. “Are You There?” swaps the clichéd jarring climax of yore for a more complex build-up and slighter dynamic shifts. It unfortunately pre-supposes the strength of its melody, which is tough to get a handle on even over its more than ten-minute length.
It gets put in its place by the lilting “A Heart Has Asked for the Pleasure” and by the swing of closer “Moonlight,” the latter being a legitimately new trick from the band. The stellar One Step More and You Die still ranks as Mono’s finest release—and may do so indefinitely. You can hear them on their last two albums struggling to find a solution to the bombast and cloying minor key melodies that made their name. They’re not there yet, but they’re making their way out of a dead genre into something altogether more subtle and satisfying—which may be more honorable than whittling the same design over and over.