Friday, May 28th, 2010
The Remains Of The Day
Mono and The Twilight Sad at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangThe curious pairing of Japan’s Mono and Scotland’s Twilight Sad probably hasn’t yielded many tour stories as they trek across North America – after all, the former can barely speak English, if at all, and the latter might speak English but it’s delivered in such a thick brogue that even native Anglophones would have trouble deciphering it. I imagine there’s been a lot of nodding and pointing. But what they lack in linguistic common ground, they make up for in their mutual affinity and expertise in sonic devastation and those skills were put on display on Wednesday night at Lee’s Palace.
Though they’d finally earned headlining honours their last time through town in October of last year, The Twilight Sad were again in the support slot this time. Now I’m never one to complain about venues leaving the stage lights up, but seeing a band whose music tends towards a certain mood – darkness and melancholy – it was odd seeing the Glasgow five-piece so well lit… at least for a song. Singer James Graham asked for them to be dimmed, not for ambience but because it was hot enough in Lee’s without a bank of incandescent stage lights pointed at you.
None of which is really meaningful except to say that it started their set off on a strange note that seemed to carry over into their performance. Part of the joys of The Twilight Sad live has always been the sheer, visceral impact of their sound and though it was plenty loud – I pulled the earplugs out a couple times to verify – it still didn’t seem quite loud enough. Certainly Andy MacFarlane had his amps turned up and James Graham was hardly taking it easy on the mic, but it took them a while – almost the whole set – to get the momentum going sufficiently to create what I’d call a proper Twilight Sad experience. They got there, though, and by Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters‘ “I Am Taking The Train Home”, I was feeling the magic and pulverizing set closer “Cold Days From The Birdhouse” sealed the deal.
I’d never seen Mono before, and my experience with their recorded works only went so far as their EP collection Gone. Even so, instrumental post-rock isn’t really the sort of genre where you have to be intimately familiar with a band’s compositions to appreciate the show – it’s more about the impact and emotiveness of the performance as it happens rather than the hearing of a favourite tunes. And in the case of Mono, the performance is in reference primarily to the music and not the band’s showmanship. The four members are rather the epitome of staying in the background and letting the music speak for them, for not only did they not utter a word, they set up a ways back into the stage and only bassist Tamaki Kunishi played standing up – both Takaakira Goto and Yasunori Takada played primarily seated and hunched over their guitars, hair obscuring their faces, though they occasionally stood and still managed to strike some impressive rock poses at various points in the night.
Trying to describe Mono invites some obvious comparisons, at least in my frame of reference, but really, in this style you’ve only got a certain number of tools to work with. The clean, intertwining guitar lines, the deafening riffage, the quiet-loud dynamic shifts… what sets the artists apart is the emotional quotient of their work; what they’re trying to convey to the listener. And where the likes of Mogwai evoke tension and anxiety and Explosions In The Sky trade in uplift and anthem, Mono’s prevailing mood is of elegant, elegiac sadness. The way their set unfolded was like an alternately hypnotic and crushing epic, wordless tragedy – surprisingly western in classical musical influence but wholly eastern in its solemn dignity. As previously noted, I couldn’t tell you what songs they played but I can say that whatever the individual components were, the sum of it was nearly two hours of breathtaking, bludgeoning beauty. Astonishing.
The Twilight Sad will release a new EP entitled The Wrong Side Of The Car on July 26.
Photos: Mono, The Twilight Sad @ Lee’s Palace – May 26, 2010
MP3: Mono – “Ashes In The Snow”
MP3: Mono – “Follow The Map”
MP3: Mono – “Gone”
MP3: Mono – “The Flames Beyond The Cold Mountain”
MP3: Mono – “Halcyon (Beautiful Days)”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Reflection Of The Television”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “Cold Days From The Birdhouse”
MP3: The Twilight Sad – “That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy”
Video: Mono – “Follow The Map”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “The Room”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “Seven Years Of Letters”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “I Became A Prostitute”
Video: The Twilight Sad – “And She Would Darken The Memory”
MySpace: The Twilight Sad
Elvis Costello will have at least two new releases this year: an album of new material entitled American Ransom on October 3 and a best-of covering the past 20 years called Pomp & Pout: The Universal Years, due on June 29.
Fucked Up have posted some details and thoughts on tonight’s free show at the Toronto Reference Library. Doors are at 7:30, things start at 8 and while the library atrium is big, you’d best get there early if you’re planning on attending. Forewarned.