MONO, “Pilgrimage of the Soul”

MONO
Pilgrimage of the Soul
TEMPORARY RESIDENCE LTD.
7/10

After 22 years together, Tokyo-based instrumental post-rockers MONO are back with Pilgrimage of the Soul, their eleventh album to date. Pilgrimage is, as the name suggests, an emotional journey, one that stirs the psyche with its meditative qualities. Inspiring feelings of inner calm, Pilgrimage mirrors forces of nature by presenting balanced dualities of sound ranging from tempestuous to serene. 

Throughout their multi-decade tenure, MONO have continually built upon this dichotomous sound. At times, MONO is orchestral and symphonic—on 2009’s Hymn to the Immortal Wind, for instance, intimate moments couple with towering movements of grandiosity. On other occasions, MONO is decidedly grungier, like on their sophomore LP One More Step and You Die. Pilgrimage of the Soul is an homage to both strands of their diverse sounds—it’s also an anomaly in that it achieves a sonic sum greater than its disparate parts. Pilgrimage represents the totality of previous endeavors in a way that’s truly and uniquely transcendental. 

There’s something deeply psychologically cleansing from listening to this record, as if connecting with music that mirrors the processes of nature can nourish and heal. If music is a contradiction in that it’s both a personal and universal experience, Pilgrimage of the Soul embodies that contradiction. It does so by creating the capacity for personal moments within listeners while offering reminders to those listening that they’re not alone.  

Pilgrimage of the Soul was recorded in 2020 and, as a result, feels tied to this emotional and melancholic period. This record, however, creates a serene space for listeners to deal with emotions prompted by these turbulent times. Rather than avoiding the perilous moment in which it was recorded, Pilgrimage of the Soul explores it, sorting through the feelings familiar to the period of history in which it was recorded. Like taking a deep breath, Pilgrimage is a musical act of unclenching that’s both a relief and a joy to hear.

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