Live Reviews : Mono, Solkyri and Jo Quail @ Max Watts, Melbourne 06/03/2020
Image: Mark Hoffmann
Words: Ben Eldström
The 6th November was a smorgasbord for Melbourne metalheads, with gigs around the inner suburbs and city featuring the likes of Mammal, Ebonivory / Glass Ocean, and Envenomed. For this reason, you could have been forgiven for fearing that the turnout for the MONO 20th anniversary tour (also in support of newest release Nowhere Now Here) might have been splintered. Due to MONO’s cult-like following, you would also be wrong.
Setting the tone for the night was the enigmatic Jo Quail, entering the stage carrying only her signature skeletal electric cello and bow. Quail began the night’s proceedings with the haunting, looming, and eerie White Salt Stag. Making heavy use of delay and loops recorded live, she built huge calamitous soundscapes often culminating in a crescendo, leaving the crowd in awe as they watched it all unfold. Admittedly, the lights weren’t doing much, but this was likely for the best so as not to distract punters’ attention from her crafting her sound piece by piece. Quail often appeared to slip into a trance as she meticulously constructed each piece, and it was difficult not to be sucked in and swept away with the performance. Methodically working her way through two other tracks, Quail finished on Mandrel Cantus which was nothing short of colossal. A few of the Melburnians slowly trickling into Max Watts might have been initially caught off-guard by a somewhat rare sight at a heavy music gig; a lone cellist. Safe to say they would have been equally intrigued and fascinated by her unique blend of horror / psychological thriller score and gloomy baroque music.
Sydneysiders Solkyri hit the stage with an opening track that sounded borderline dream pop – a bold and refreshing contrast to the heavier sounds played by Jo Quail. These uplifting melodies produced by Solkyri instantly lifted the mood in the venue and it wasn’t long before punters were showing their appreciation with the classic shoegaze sway. Good practice for the headliners. With typically post-rock nonchalant-ness, guitarist Fitz-Henry decided to put down the axe for their second song and tickle a keyboard instead. Despite the dream pop beginnings, as Solkyri continued through their set they explored sounds that you’d more typically expect from a post-rock band, albeit while still maintaining an upbeat and energetic atmosphere. Big chunky riffs, lush drums, and groovy basslines aplenty. As soon as Fitz-Henry returned to his guitar, Solkyri’s drummer stepped towards a keyboard on the left of the stage for the next song, again no big deal. The two closing songs from Solkyri were far and away the most energetic they played and garnered the biggest response from the crowd. Inspiring bouts of headbanging and plenty of the aforementioned swaying, Solkyri surely stamped their presence on any of the punters unfamiliar with yet another prime example of the amazing post-rock coming out of Sydney lately.
MONO’s 2019 album Nowhere Now Here is nothing short of an achievement and a pinnacle of their cacophonic interpretation of post-rock/shoegaze. That being said, MONO transcend genre labels and have a revered reputation that precedes them, a testament to which a packed Max Watt’s easily confirmed. The Japanese quartet unashamedly believes in the power of their latest release, as shown by playing each of the four opening tracks from Nowhere Now Here, in order, culminating at the eponymously named song. After You Comes the Flood has one of the catchiest hooks from 2019 absolutely drenched in reverb, and it translates so well live.
The reverb is ever-present throughout the rest of the set, as MONO cycle through older favourites like Dream Odyssey and Ashes in the Snow peppered through more new material. Before finishing the set, MONO was joined by Jo Quail, who only added to the grandiosity of the swirling sounds that filled Max Watts. After a brief interlude offstage, MONO returned to finish with a song that was surely a treat for the dedicated fan as it was from deep in their discography and rarely played live. A splendid track that captures their career-defining sound perfectly, beginning with sulky mountain echoes and building to an angry, chaotic, and cathartic conclusion. A subtle nod to their roots on a tour that celebrates two decades of music.