Robert Stillman is a one-man performer of juddering, off-kilter musings. His performance is reduced to a stripped-down drum kit and a piano, however he shows an adept technical ability in being able to play in conjunction with one another.
Backed with minimal visuals and not much else, his music is clearly a work of a vivid mindset. His set isn’t exactly inviting (some could say reclusive) but it is intriguing – something tonight’s crowd seem to respond to gradually as the set progresses.
The concept of pairing a twenty-four piece orchestra with a band boasting as grandiose a sound as Mono’s seems almost too obvious – which doesn’t mean to say it has any less of an impact. Having seen Mono before, it’s hard to imagine their bellowing orchestral resonance becoming anymore powerful, something The Holy Ground Orchestra put to rest without so much as a violin pluck.
As the glockenspiel intro to ‘Ashes In The Snow’ gives way to the oncoming layering of cellos and violins from the orchestra, the boundaries between the Japanese quartet’s layered progressions and their violin-wielding counterparts become increasingly blurred. And it works. If ever there were a band of this ilk to bring their classical styling to a live setting, it would be Mono.
‘Burial At Sea’ displays all the careful and thought-provoking dynamics you would come to expect from a group of Mono’s standing in the post-rock genre. Its reverb-drenched guitar riffs being carried through the impending noise with crashing cymbals and percussion. At times the set takes on a cinematic feel of an epic journey while their dramatic soundtrack is blasted into your ears.
There is, at times, a sense of a total lack of remorse from Mono. When you think The Holy Ground Orchestra can’t be drowned out any more by their thunderous guitar overdrives, Mono take it that one step further by doing away with any sense of structure and pummelling the audience with as much noise as they can make. There is respite, however: the piano driven ‘Follow The Map’ really allowing the orchestra to take hold of the reigns with subtly layered ambient textures.
Mono are one of those rare bands who seem absorbed in pushing their sound as far as they possibly can. Their marriage with The Holy Ground Orchestra is testament to that ambition, resulting in an impossibly powerful and enthralling experience that not many will be able to match.
Words by Nick Calafato