Album Length: Monno, Error

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Album Length

Monno, Error

by Geraldine Kim
illustration by Emma Spertus 

I WANTED TO listen to an album I had never heard of before from a band I had never heard of before. So I went to Aquarius Records in San Francisco and picked something that didn’t have one of those mini-reviews stuck on it (which I usually don’t mind, but for the purposes of this article wanted to avoid).

What drew me to this album in particular was that the cover (yes, I judged a book by its cover—so fucking what), which was different from everything else—it wouldn’t fit in the plastic please-don’t-steal-me encasement and had “MONNO” and “ERROR” written jaggedly in what looks like permanent marker, and I like Mono so maybe I would like this “MONNO” with the extra “n.”

I buy the album and bring it home and look at the insert which has intricate abstract drawings[1]and a picture of a white guy on it. So they are probably not Japanese like Mono. They recorded the album in Berlin. Yeah. These people are German, I think.[2]

I am ready to listen to Monno, Error.

1. “necronomik”[3]

the noise/distortion is sort of welcoming—layered, like a Pollock. i turn my volume up to hear the buzzing, the static. it’s like a factory—far away and galactic, a time pool.[4]

a cymbal enters[5]. it’s a reminder that people are somehow behind this—not some machine. it seems to be reaching a crescendo. then the back noise—wait. it sounds like a flute. then it flattens out into…?

there’s a doom-metal rhythm now and i hear faintly faintly what sounds like a voice under a garbly P.A.

I think.

no, that was the guitar.

It all ends and crashes, some periodic humming that sounds like a copy machine

2. the next song is called “tiny fossils.”

it starts off with a high ring and ambient clatter. guitar. i shake my hands next to my ears to think of a word.

it’s hard and kinda scream-o—the distortion from the guitar makes voice[6]and instrument indiscernible. is this supposed to represent the un-making of a human? i shouldn’t’ve read the title. this song makes me want to type really fast for the rest of my life. the squeaking from the back noise sounds beautiful.[7]

there’s a pause.

it’s 3 chords over and over—something kinda punk-y. it ends in a scream.

3. “blind” starts with a fat bass[8]. then some buzzing ices over it and into a guitar. the bass line kinda reminds me of the hypnotic bass line from that 19-minute liars song[9]. the guitar sounds like an alarm at first—and then it moves to a different pitch—lots of cymbal to match the distortion.

i keep thinking the distortion is a voice, but it’s not—it’s just feedback.

It sounds kinda like dial-up (remember that?)

my head nods on the 1 and 2 beats.

i somehow feel like vocals are supposed to come but they aren’t coming—

ok now here they are—

that’s definitely a person screaming indiscriminately in the background—i have no idea what he’s saying and i’m ok with that. lyrics tend to make songs terrible anyway.

wouldn’t it be funny if he was singing about how he had to wait in line at the grocery store? “i just wanted to buy my tomato…!!!”

i like how it pauses and then explodes in noise. i want to break something not easily broken. like a fan.[10]

4. “hertz moisture.”

maybe i shouldn’t read the titles because they make me have some sort of preconception of the song.

i am realizing that there are layers of distortion/white noise—not all distortion sounds the same—i would call this the “whirring” kind.

now it’s breaking into something knife-like. i can make out the drummer hitting the cymbals arrhythmically[11]. the white noise can have a tone—there’s a harmony here—

ok now it’s back to metal—it’s like black sabbath was replaced by a bunch of robots. i am enjoying these angry robots. part of the noise reminds me of space invaders[12]. it ends in something rippling—kinda like a vibrato, i guess.

5. i am not going to read the title for this until it’s over

this one is way more cohesive than the past songs—it starts w/o distortion—standard headbanging fare.

it’s in 3[13]—i imagine angry robots waltzing to this. there’s something kinda synth-y going on—like… it sounds like breathing—like a poor quality 911 call recording. ok now it sounds like a computer booting up. all while the guitar is repeating the same sixteenth notes over and over underneath.

it’s a sense of urgency and anxiety—i feel like something terrible is going to happen.

i like that the time signature changes b/w 3 and 2.

yeah, the distortion—the way it goes down and then up—it’s like a voice.

the name of that song was “defekt.”

6. i didn’t read the song title of this one. it’s someone screaming—and every time he screams, his voice mixes with the distortion from the guitar.

i wish my vocabulary was more broad: i keep saying “noise” or “distortion” because what they’re doing is outside my listening ken[14]

i think this would qualify as “sludge metal” —it has the doom but it’s got a lethargic rhythm—i like that there’s no melody to hold onto.

“doleur chiffrée”[15]—that sounds french—it stops and goes crazy again—i thought it had gone on to the next song. it ends in a weird slide flute w/ tv white static.

7. the next song is called “graue masse.” it starts off much more calm—it sounds like a distorted saxophone—tuning—on a record player[16]

and then something w/ synth like in clockwork orange. this can’t be a saxophonist b/c there’s no time to breathe—but it really does sound like a sax. it’s weird. i turn it up to wait to hear the breathing.[17]

i hear a recorder[18]or feedback. i can’t tell which.

that was such a soft song—

8. the next song, “rapid flesh,” starts really hard and thrasher—it’s hard/fast/staccato, quiet, then just as hard/fast/strong.

9. this one’s called “m.v.” and i’m sad that this album is so short.

i feel like i’ve entered a u.f.o. in a ’60s sci-fi movie. there’s a wavering trill—and then a cymbal-like “bass” i guess you could say—and it’s eerie—this band has incredible range.

ok something kinda rocky—the bass and then the drums—something impending with that high pitched trill (slower now, keeping in time with the bass and drums) it’s like the distortion is its own instrument—i wonder how they made these sounds so precisely…?[19]

the singer rocks out and screams and then the trill lowers in pitch, keeping its same frequency. the bass and drum keep the rock beat—

this is the most accessible song on the album, i think. the rock rhythm makes it that way. the precision of the distortion makes me think something with a keyboard is involved. i need to look at the cd insert later. it can’t be done by hand…[20]

10. “pourri” is the next song—also rather accessible with its catchy hook. the singer loops in and out (at least, i think it’s a singer—no, it’s not).

its sort of fast rap-like singing underneath reminds me of polysics’ vocals a little bit… and i don’t want to write b/c i want to dance to this song—the electronic rippling—the feedback sounds like it’s in morse code

11. “outre-monde” <–last song. i am sad.

it starts off rather percussive—extremely pixilated and edged out. silence. something edging out into a discernible tone. how the fuck did they make this noise?

ppl who listen to sunn-0))) or boris would probably like this album.[21]

there’s something kinda funny about how each beat glissandos up—it’s like a bouncing ball—a helicopter-like feedback rhythm.

a recorded voice loop. i can’t understand what language it’s in. the helicopter thing is now kinda like a fast heartbeat.[22]

[1] Artwork by Dennis Tyfus.
[2] I find out later that they’re actually Swiss. I’m so fucking presumptuous.
[3] Oh—just so you know—I have a tendency to not capitalize when typing fast so I apologize for those who* are grammatically inclined. *Originally I wrote “that” and then KS editor Jeff T. Johnson (who I will identify as “Jeff” later on in note 7) corrected me.
[4] I don’t know why I said “a time pool.” That’s just the first thing I thought of. I probably meant “like time travel.”
[5] The drummer’s name is Marc Fantini.
[6] “Singing laptop” is provided by Gilles Aubry.
[7] Jeff said he kept reading “black noise” rather than “back noise”—I wish I had meant that instead. According to Wikipedia, “black noise” is “[n]oise with a 1/fÐ spectrum, where Ð > 2 (Manfred Schroeder, ‘Fractals, chaos, power laws’). Used in modeling various environmental processes. Is said to be a characteristic of ‘natural and unnatural catastrophes like floods, droughts, bear markets, and various outrageous outages, such as those of electrical power.’ Further, ‘because of their black spectra, such disasters often come in clusters.’” Jeff thinks “black noise” should mean “aggressive, all-encompassing ambience” which I think is a synonym for something like a flood or a drought. Or a bear market… Death by a bear while shopping for vegetables would certainly qualify as “aggressive” and “all-encompassing.”
[8] The bassist’s name is Derek Shirley and he also plays in Coal Oven and Ununium, Bennett is Tunar, the Hollowmen, Erik and Me, and Splatterdandy.
[9] “This Dust Makes That Mud,” and it’s actually 30 minutes long.
[10] I only used that example because there was a fan next to me when I wrote this.
[11] I fucking hate spellchecker. It suggested “arrhythmically” as “arrhythmic ally.” WTF?!
[12] A video game.
[13] As in the time signature.
[14] See note 22.
[15] …is the title of the song.
[16] I learn later from reading their website that they hooked up a sax to the guitar amps! The tenor saxophonist’s name is Antoine Chessex.
[17] ibid.
[18] The white plastic flute-like kind.
[19] I learn later that they incorporate their laptop into their music.
[20] ibid.
[21] I just looked on their website and reviewers compare them with Lightning Bolt and while I enjoy LB, I think they’re doing something different—reviewers probably only compare them to Lightning Bolt b/c they toured with them.
[22] The primary definition for “black noise” (see note 7 for definition 2) according to Wikipedia is “silence.” This makes some sense since definitions 3, 4, and 5 are “[n]oise that has a frequency spectrum of predominately zero power level over all frequencies except for a few narrow bands or spikes. An example of black noise in a facsimile transmission system is the spectrum that might be obtained when scanning a black area in which there are a few random white spots. Thus, in the time domain, a few random pulses occur while scanning,” “[w]hatever comes out of an active noise control system and cancels an existing noise, leaving the world noise free. The comic book character Iron Man used to have a ‘black light beam’ that could darken a room like this, and popular sci-fi has a tendency to portray active noise control in this light,” and “ultrasonic white noise. This black noise is like the so-called black light with frequencies too high to be sensed, but still capable of affecting the environment.”

Geraldine Kim is the author of Povel, the bastard son of the poem and the novel. 

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