Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined (Temporary Residence, 2004)
by Mono
CMJ New Music Monthly 124 or thereabouts

Japanese quartet Mono aren’t out to shatter any stereotypes about post-rock—they’re just here to play it really, really well. Last year’s gracefully towering One Step More And You Die revitalized the build-to-burst formula of groups like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor with its unflinching crescendos and weird song titles, and for the most part their third album continues the tradition. But somehow Walking Cloud is at once more interesting and less enthralling: it never reaches the thunderous volume that powered One Step, but its consistent and tasteful use of a string quartet lends it a lushness its predecessors lacked. The layered guitar-and-feedback squall is still there, in opener “16.12” and the fifteen-minute “Lost Snow,” which intensify to formidable peaks in canonical po-ro fashion. Elsewhere, though, the noisy edge is subdued in favor of a gentler beauty, as on the idyllic “Halcyon (Beautiful Days)” and the album's shorter (i.e., under eight minutes) tracks. Disappointingly subdued production from noted noisemonger Steve Albini saps the rhythm section somewhat, but guitarists Takaakira Goto and Yoda continue to coax enchanting effects from their delay and distortion pedals, if less for volume’s sake than for variety’s. Though Walking Cloud isn’t quite as exciting as Mono’s first two records, its infusion of emotion and finesse into the predictability of post-rock is still more than welcome.