A sensuous, rapturous and thought-provoking collection of superior, post-rock instrumental music, Oath (Pelagic Records), from Japanese four-piece Mono, was recorded and mixed by late, great and already much-missed engineer Steve Albini, who passed away last month, aged 61.

The results are a bit Sigur Ros, a bit more Mogwai, with a lot of “linking hands and gazing out to a far horizon, in a quest for meaning”.

Oath, Mono’s twelfth full-length release, both luxuriates in and suffers from the existential tendency of what detractors might bracket “this sort of soundtrack/soundscape stuff”, to start slow and low, then get really loud, and do so repeatedly, even exponentially. There is much to luxuriate in, though, with keys, orchestra and brass adding shades, nuances and walls of sound to the “basic” guitar, guitar, bass, drums combo.

Drummer Dahm makes an early statement of intent on the title track, Albini due no small credit for the awesome kit sounds. Drums come back to the fore later, on “Hear The Wind Sing” and “Holy Winter”, for example. The soaring, coruscating “Run On” also impresses, although the familiar, slow-build tactics are resolutely maintained.

Other stand-outs include the propulsive “We All Shine On”, and the suitably climactic final track, “Time Goes By”, with its predictable but effective ultimate crescendo and transcendent fade out.

A few songs tend to slightly outstay their welcome, running at more than eight or nine minutes, the whole album a thorough one hour ten minutes plus. Some moments recall music by Brian Eno, and even Radiohead.

That certain sameness creeps in, though, not just because of recurring musical themes and looping – melancholic music tends to meander, almost by definition. “Moonlight Drawing” is rousing, epic and majestic, but still with that melancholy undertone: at times the tugging of the heartstrings seems too obviously simplistic, but there are passages of undeniable splendour as Mono again proves they can be masters of mood and atmosphere.


Albini, who showed his own, often intense and uncompromising musical chops with Big Black and Rapeman, was latterly an engaging, entertaining and often forthright frontman with Shellac, as well as being universally praised for his prolific producer/engineer stints with the likes of Nirvana, Pixies, Low, the aforementioned Mogwai, Ty Segall and many, many others.

He had collaborated with Mono for twenty-plus years, on and off, and Oath sounds properly and rightfully sublime.

Buy the album here:


8 / 10