he driving force behind From Monument to Masses is, according to their website, to be a creative lab for revolutionary social change. Their main format for creating this transformation is the device of music. And, whichever side you take on the issue, the group and a large portion of music listeners believe that music is a powerful social force, capable of this sort of revolution. To read further about their politics, you can find information here. To read about their music, you can read below.
The group takes influences from all over the map and judging by their press releases and website are incredibly unafraid to tell you all about it. Mogwai, Fugazi, Tortoise, Godspeed You (!) Black Emperor!, Don Caballero, Tristeza and Unwound have all been used as reference points for the bands instrumental epic length tracks. And while all of these bands point towards what the group is doing, it doesn’t quite encapsulate their sound.
Instead, FMTM uses the sounds of revolutionary critics, the banality of news programming and our nation’s leaders as its narrative context allowing each listener to draw their own conclusions from their placement in the mix as to what the group believes. It’s hard to misunderstand what the group intends, but it’s put forth in an interesting way: by using the voices of others they have chosen to silence their own particular critiques. In using the ideas of others and the musical ideas of other hardcore and post-rock bands, in fact, the group would seem to bring nothing new to the table.
But it is simply in the combination of these elements that FMTM creates a new sound- not one that is intensely unfamiliar, but one that juxtaposes two elements that have never found their way towards one another in quite this format.
Does it work as a musical document? For the most part. Despite some of the songs losing their edge after a certain threshold point, FMTM has an innate ability to play in the line between pointlessly long repetitious riffing and intense trance-like states. Ever careful to make sure that attention is always focused on the messages being displayed, the group pushes the samples to the front of each song and, frequently, to the climactic moment of each song. And despite the cloying effect of having a run-up to the end of a sample for an extremely portentous moment of silence before turning towards a new melodic idea, the trick more often than not works.
Perhaps you don’t agree with the politics, perhaps you don’t agree with the reference points musically, perhaps you don’t find the music to be engaging, but little can be leveled at FMTM that they don’t understand or would even admit themselves- this is a complex group with a complex ideology and it's well on its way towards carving a strong niche in the musical market that is not being filled elsewhere.
The great situationist experiment continues.