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Monos - Above The Sky CD

Monos - Above The Sky CD

£6.99
Part One : Back in March 2006 Monos performed their one and only live show, comprised on the day of Darren Tate, Colin Potter and Paul Bradley. The show is recorded on a handheld recorder placed somewhere within the audience by Darius Akashic. Sometime later (probably 2007 no one can remember exactly) the material captured on that recording is revisited in the studio where the track (A Place Of Voices) is recreated over a couple of afternoons and many cups of tea. After that, not much happens. Part Two : Cut to several months (possibly over a year) later and the recordings are revisited again. This time rather than recreating the material in the studio the original live recordings are used and supplemented with some extra new studio material to create a second track (Cloudless Day). This second track is far more abrasive, abrupt and low-fi than the first and the two pieces stand together in interesting contrast to each other. The familiar and unfamiliar, the context changed, the final result very different, yet at the same time completely natural and cohesive. Then again, not much happens for a time. Part Three : Skip to sometime late 2008. The two tracks are revisited again along with a third piece that was discovered from a period prior to the performance in 2006 that seems to lay some of the foundations for what was presented live. Originally consisting of raw synthesizer and guitar recordings that were later remixed, effected, spat back out and complimented with other sounds and existing recordings and mixed in the studio to create what was later to be called Rivers (from the bonus disc). A few adjustments are made to A Place Of Voices and the three tracks are prepared for a final release. In early 2009, it is decided to create a fourth track to complete the project and Perhaps (from the bonus disc) is born. The project is now nearly finished and along with some financial assistance from the ultimately very patient Marek Nawrot, almost ready for pressing. Then again, nothing much happens as the project is delayed due to some personal upheavals. It is not until late 2009 that the artwork is finally completed with the help of Jonathan Coleclough, and everything sent for manufacturing, which is then delayed again not only due to the holiday season, but also because of some very severe wintery weather. Part Four : So, early 2010, after almost four years since it´s initial inception, with tracks spanning that entire period and from even earlier, Above The Sky is finally completed. Delivered from the manufacturers on a snowy day, where ankles are nearly broken hauling the boxes up some very icy steps; it is finished. It has also come full circle; the night of the original concert back in 2006 was also marked by the sheer ice rink that slid downhill outside the venue as we all left in the dark and several of the audience (and some performers) were seen slipping in the air and sliding down the hill on their backs. A strange coincidence. It was a long journey, but well worth it. REVIEW FROM BRAINWASHED by Anthony D'Amico : After a four-year hiatus, this slumbering drone supergroup has returned with a deeply unsettling and surreal new album. That time was not spent idly, as Above The Sky sounds like it has been sculpted and tweaked to razor-sharp perfection. Despite being the work of three people with three different aesthetics, there is no absolutely trace of ego, compromise, bloat, or wasted time here. This is as perfect as drone music gets. Above the Sky apparently had a very difficult birth, as it originated from a single concert that Paul Bradley, Colin Potter, and Darren Tate played together in 2006. The trio wasn’t entirely pleased with the recording, so it was gradually embellished, enhanced, layered, and reworked until it finally became “A Place of Voices.” In the process, quite a bit of new material was recorded, some of which cohered into the album’s closing piece. The rest of it wound up as Beneath the Earth, a bonus album that sold-out very quickly. Each of the two tracks included here is a half-hour long. The first one, “A Place Of Voices,” begins with ominous, queasy droning. As it progresses, the sound slowly undulates and swells while spectral creaks, scrapes and squeals flit about the shadows. However, only the peripheral mindfuckery remains relatively constant, as the trio seamlessly drifts from one movement to another. It flows quite beautifully, but it follows a very unpredictable course, as a cacophony of bowed metals can turn into a pleasant field recording of a flock of chirping birds within mere minutes (and does). The following piece, “Cloudless Day,” fades in with a shifting, quavering mass of subtly clashing notes and a harsh metallic shimmer. The volume swells and drops unpredictably, heightening the deep sense of unease, and various elements begin to change dramatically until it graduates from “uneasy” to “harrowing.” Then it all abruptly stops, only to begin again in a distant, murky new form. After a while, that limps to a conclusion as well, but is soon replaced by a still more disquietingly hallucinatory phase that calls to mind a haunted hall of mirrors. Ultimately, however, the birds reappear and it all ends on an unexpectedly calm note: the titular “cloudless day,” I suppose (but one that only appears after a trip through hell). Above the Sky is an album that is malevolently alive, as every single sound is active and holds the potential to morph into either something deeply ugly or an unexpected oasis of calm. It is a constantly and mysteriously shifting sonic terrain that seethes with implied menace. Repeat listens will certainly lessen the impact of the twists and surprises, but there is so much to absorb and appreciate that it won’t matter. This is a brilliant and nightmarish masterpiece from start to finish. REVIEW FROM AQUARIUS RECORDS : Over the past few years, Darren Tate has been wandering into some wildly weird electronics, broadening the scope of his aesthetic beyond the seminal recordings he made with Andrew Chalk (amongst others) as Ora, and more recently through Monos. For the most part, Monos has been a collaborative project between Tate and Nurse With Wound engineer extrordinaire Colin Potter, but at other times, we're pretty sure that Tate is the only one behind the wheel. For Above The Sky, the Monos line-up includes Tate, Potter, and fellow British dronescraper Paul Bradley; and this record is a top notch, vintage sounding Monos disc for sure. The extended pieces found on this album were culled from the one and only live Monos gig in 2006, the handful of recordings from that gig were processed, recreated, forgotten about, rediscovered, and processed again throughout various starts and stops over the next four years. The resulting album is surprisingly coherent, presenting itself as a sinewy mass of undulating drones dappled with various textures, shadowy events, field recordings, subtle instrumentation, and then some. The ghostly ambience that introduces this album is sublimely beautiful, like the druggy drones of Nurse With Wound (e.g. Soliloquy For Lilith) or the permafrost laden expanses of Thomas Koner or even a darker version of Leyland Kirby's much-lauded hauntological ambience. Distant sound elements of scraped metal echo to the foreground, as the latent sounds from some occluded ritual in some forgotten place. Shimmering acoustic clouds of resonance peel away into field recordings of numerous birds flitting about. Later on, semi-melodic phrases hover near the event horizon dominated by ominous electrical vibrations and dilated drone fields. Seriously, this is fantastic stuff! REVIEW FROM WONDERFUL WOODEN REASON Originally a solo vehicle for Darren Tate, subsequently a duo with the addition of Nurse With Wounds Colin Potter and latterly a trio with Paul Bradley, Monos has long been a source of beautiful drone music. It's been too long by far since their last release and so it's great to see them back in the saddle again. The basis for this sumptuous release was the sole (so far) Monos live performance in March 2006. The single piece performance was captured on tape and is later modified through the addition of new material and also recreated utterly to produce the two tracks that make up the CD. The music is sublime and almost too gentle to hold onto. It's less dense than many Monos recordings with more of an organic feel (especially on track one with it's bird recordings). There is more air and light than I was expecting and it's all the better for it. The intensity of sound has been not replaced with but has been joined (enhanced) by space and room to roam. This recording lives at that strange place where drone meets ambient. You could live in these sounds as they are neither oppressive or invasive but equally it's never meditative or passive. The sheer quality of execution demanding your attention without ever being demonstrative in doing so. Exquisite music. Everyone should own a copy. REVIEW FROM TEMPORARY FAULT(by Massimo Ricci) MONOS – Above The Sky + Below The Earth The latest incarnation of Monos – Darren Tate, Colin Potter and Paul Bradley – performed live only once, in 2006. The tape of that concert didn’t satisfy the trio’s lust for release, but apparently that was the root from which a masterful album - that has seen the light just recently – was born. As it usually happens, those who count on good mafia connections (the aforesaid Jochen Schwarz, for example) get alerted in due time about the existence of a limited edition copy that must be grabbed at pre-stroke price prior to its vanishing, which is precisely what we’re reviewing here. Above The Sky is kind of psychedelic, although it maintains the droning character typical of several Monos efforts. Sounds range from unbounded electronic activity, murky guitars arpeggios and infinite organ chords to misshapen field recordings, wraithlike shortwave presences and marvellously singing flying creatures, a blackbird acting as soloist in a particularly intense section. The music is clearly designed as a patchwork, in that one distinctly detects the collage of different soundscapes added and manipulated over the years. Nevertheless, everything unfolds naturally in this now-heavenly, now-nightmarish expedition in which special kinds of mental imagery – wryly smiling dolls, distorted demon faces, pastoral openings, the more the merrier – could be met. This is going to be appreciated by Nurse With Wound occasional fans, too (the zealots already bought it, of course). Below The Earth is the bonus disc, and – despite the attendance of not-exactly-consonant factors disturbing an overall calmness – is the half that’s similar enough to the mysterious motionlessness emblematic of Monos’ prior releases (which will NEVER be comparable to any variety of “dark ambient” horseshit – this is seriously composed stuff, my friends). This means that we can make the music work at various levels of realization: you might use the unquiet stasis as a starting point for extreme self-analysis, keep it as a valuable company for rare peaceful moments, or probe it through headphones and find the extraneous elements that are still there, if better camouflaged. And don’t miss the fantastic finale, tropical birds preceding an extremely melodic, if well-concealed guitar performing a starry-eyed melody. It may have been done ironically yet comes out as absolutely tender, and it’s a fitting conclusion. Both CDs are fine examples of these men’s abstract artistry. If you’re smart enough, find a reason to look for this item before the value skyrockets. REVIEW FROM PROGRESS REPORT : Two side long tracks by Darren Tate, Paul Bradley and Colin Potter, recording here under the moniker MONOS, giving in total 1 hour of enchanting drones. As often with these kind of compositions it requires intensive listening, preferably with headphones at a high volume, before the music reaches its maximum effect. The approach taken is not that far removed from their earlier work, but what they present here is without doubt among their most deep and enriched work, with a very great attention to detail. The first piece here (A Place of Voices) is the most rewarding, very loosely building up tension. The first part could easily be the soundtrack for an exhibition of impressionist painters, without sounding at all dull or ambient. After twenty minutes field recordings take over, with birds singing in a forest during a sundrenched afternoon. As evening starts to fall the drones take over again, gently flowing into even darker territories. This part especially has some creepy moments and very effectively goes beyond the friendly scenery as the idea starts to settle that there’s more going on. This idea is further developed on Cloudless Day, the second track. The piece meanders in unexpected directions for a while, from time to time bringing Nurse With Wound to mind (Soliloquy for Lilith, but also the enigmatic Lumbs Sister), with the claustrophobic feel from the first side steadily continued. Just like the Lumbs Sister soundtrack, the music comes across as highly visual, bringing to mind an alienated world, a world where one shouldn’t stay too long. Throughout the track there is a sense of urgency, fear sometimes, as if the tones (and overtones) here are revealing the darker side of the romantic impressionists paintings and will soon become a less friendlier place to be in. If adventurous sounding landscapes are your thing, this might just be your pick of the year. PvdG

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