BEING THERE: MONO @ Union Transfer


Delicate placidity often led to sudden uproar when the streams of dark-wave singer/songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle and the ethereal post-rock of Japan’s MONO were crossed at Union Transfer Sunday night. Rundle and her touring band, comprised of Wovenhand’s Dylan Nadon on drums and Jay Jayle members Evan Patterson on guitar and Todd Cook on bass, kicked off their set with “Races” from 2018’s On Dark Horses. Rich with reverb, Rundle’s guitar sounds hung in the air as she leaned toward the microphone, her voice gentle and softening the music beneath. Before transitioning into “Light Song,” Rundle produced a bow and dragged it across her guitar strings as the group wrapped the audience in an interlude of pure, droning dissonance. A deep bass groove followed, joined by isolated and ghostly guitar sounds that eventually morphed into an adrenalized melody. Rundle thanked MONO for bringing her band on the tour and then closed out her set with a scorching rendition of “Heaven” from 2016’s Marked for Death.

MONO is touring in support of their latest release, Nowhere Now Here, and celebrating its 20th anniversary. Sunday night, guitarists Takaakira “Taka” Goto and Hideki “Yoda” Suematsu sat in chairs on opposite ends of the stage while bassist Tamaki Kunishi took center stage a little to the left of drummer Dahm Majuri Cipolla. As red lights shone down upon them, MONO began their set with the blissful layering of tonal swells that introduce “God Bless,” the first track from Nowhere Now Here. MONO’s set was a veritable blanket of flowing sound, often verging on cacophony at points, but never abrasive or alienating. Even at their most turbulent, the group manage to weave some degree of beauty into their arrangements, be it monoliths of plucked melody (“Sorrow”) or an unexpected surge of raw sound (“Meet Us Where The Night Ends”) that was absolutely breathtaking. As an exit strategy, MONO treated us to a powerful rendition of “COM(?)” from 2002’s One More Step And You Die. As the minutes elapsed, the song structure began to crumble. As band members began to depart the stage one by one, leaving behind a maelstrom of sonic debris as Goto, the last of the group to leave, leaned his guitar against the amplifier setting off a squall of feedback before waving to the crowd as he headed offstage. A tech emerged, flipped a switch, and the venue went dark and silent. — SEAN CALDWELL

Setlists after the jump…

Emma Ruth Rundle Setlist
Races — On Dark Horses
Light Song — On Dark Horses
Fever Dreams — On Dark Horses
Apathy on the Indiana Border — On Dark Horses
Protection — Marked For Death
Marked For Death — Marked For Death
Darkhorse — On Dark Horses
Control — On Dark Horses
Heaven — 2016’s Marked For Death

MONO Setlist
God Bless —
After You Comes The Flood —
Death In Rebirth
Meet Us Where The Night Ends
Halcyon (Beautiful Days)
Ashes in the Snow
Com(?) — One Step More and You Die