What does Monolithe Noir sound like?
Oppressive and cataclysmic prog rock with a heavy dose of existential crisis.
The review of Monolithe Noir – Rin
French trio Monolithe Noir return with their third album “Rin” and it’s a marriage between prog and math rock made in heaven. Except with Monolithe Noir, its as if they are borrowing from the math rock world without ever running a sum or equation. “Rin” is an album that feels like an aggressive, dismissive flick of the wrist drawn out into 43 minutes of “what do have to deal with now” as a feeling.
It is difficult to describe Monolithe Noir’s sound for me without mentioning Battles. The two bands have a similar view of taking a mood of heavy percussion, grinding guitars and asynchronous synths and jamming out to it. Tracks like “Balafenn” and “Finvus” are muddy, angered and visceral as they smash and crash their way through a chaotic world where instruments can jerk and spasm at a whim. They’re also extremely groovy and catchy!
The trio aren’t afraid to be more melodic though and they enjoy bringing in instruments you’d not normally hear in a prog rock album too. It’s this more rounded and experimental palette of sound that makes the band stand out. “Morse” is a hypnotic harmonium drone with violin pulses that grow more kaleidoscopic over its duration. “La Source” has that French deflated organ sound driving its rhythmic percussion as if we’ve gone into a Breton hidey hole and emerged out the other side in a new secret world. Then we have the tape-worn lethargic masterpiece “Askre”. If ever I was asked to provide a track that conveys having the weight of a bleak world on your shoulders, it’d be this. It’s heavy with mood and the dissonant guitar twangs give it an uneasy feeling. Monolithe Noir obviously enjoys a bit of Stanley Kubrick, I’m sure he’d love this as a soundtrack to his works.
“Rin” (meaning secret in Breton) is a curious track to have as the title track because its the most subtle piece on the album. A mixture of muted drums and distant warning signals that could indicate a party or a distant disaster, its mystery is one of the reasons I return back to it wanting more. More cinematic is “Barra Bouge” literally meaning fuck off in Breton. You are most welcome, it was the best thing I learned today. It features Belgo-Tunisian singer Jawhar Basti commanding a haunted vocal whilst Mirabelle Gillis goes nuts on her violin as oppressive hums and hues cumulate and then explode into a frenzy. That frenzy continues into “Landmaerck” too although it starts off as an abstract synth piece before exploding into a blitzkrieg assault on the senses. That leaves closer “Veillism” to triumphantly provide an uplifting prog rock jam with chunky organs, psychedelic solos and a heady finale to leave you wondering if you’d just had a depressive fever dream.
There is so much going on in “Rin” that I haven’t even mentioned the homemade hurdy-gurdy. Oh yes, it’s that kind of album where you think “did I just hear that?” and it’s likely that you did.
I have so much love for this album and the delivery of mood and substance that “Rin” provides. Whilst the Battles reference early on is helpful to get you onboard, the band doesn’t stay there for too long. It is where Monolithe Noir get experimental and melodic at the same time that the real genius of this album comes to the fore. File under experimental but wildly fantastic.
Recommended track: Finvus
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