Album Review: Monochromie – ‘Enlighten Yourself While You Sleep’

Monochromie Album CoverIf you could, just for a moment, please empty your mind of all thought. Having done so, now try and imagine what melancholic infused ambient soundscapes, intertwined with piano led movements and down tempo guitar driven post-rock, might sound like. If that amalgamation of sounds is something that tickles your fancy, yet you find hard to picture, then I strongly urge you to check out French musician Monochromie. This Marseille based composer’s second album Enlighten Yourself While You Sleep – released on Fluttery Records – is quite an astounding record. It’s one that manages to take your stream of consciousness away on an epic journey, and with quite some ease it must be said.

With all 9 tracks on this release, Monochromie – or Wilson Trouvé to his folks – has managed to transcend whatever boundaries some people think should not be crossed, when it comes to a musician’s output. His ability to combine numerous elements, however slight, such as  ambient electronica, classical and distorted post-rock like guitar, all the while losing none of its melody, is truly something to behold. Elements ranging from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky, to Phillip Glass and Chopin, to Sigur Rós and Stafraenn Hákon, all combine to bring you this 45 minute collection of delightful, emotional and sublime music.

Opening number “A Cold Sunset”, is an atmospheric piece that begins with crackling static, but instead of allowing that fuzzy intro to take centre stage, Monochromie allows for the rather inspired addition of a glockenspiel into the fold. This results in the removal of any possible harshness to gain a foothold in the track. The piano led “Broken Beauties” is up next, which includes underlining sounds reminiscent of snapping whips, as well as faint drone like guitar chords, all of which add to the repetitive piano note that is held throughout. One could easily imagine this piece accompanying some type of documentary footage of an injured animal perhaps.

On first listen “Ashes & Sparks” opening thirty seconds forms ecclesiastical like imagery, something which stays with it during the piece. While its use of ambient tones and minimal electronica is at times, overwhelmingly hypnotic.  The sounds of heavily distorted guitar comes to the fore during “Birds Never Die”, and the battle like action, it has on its hands, versus Trouvé’s underlying piano melody, is thoroughly enjoyable.  The religious vibe continues – perhaps more so in name only however – with “Hymn”. It’s here that the post-rock guitar rumblings are obviously prevalent, yet never once it is allowed to over step the line and take total control over the tracks other components. Monochromie uses the mish-mash of fuzz and piano rather eloquently here, proving that all three elements are important cogs in his ongoing mission.

One of the most telling aspects of post-rock in today’s world, is that most songs slowly but ever so surly build up, until they end in a crescendo of whaling guitars. That is not in any way to be viewed as a negative point may I add. It’s just that during “Silence is Anger”, it’s as if the piano is the one trying to vie for your attention, as opposed to the resonant sounds of the guitar, which would be considered the norm. Yes it is a piece that builds and builds, and includes breathtaking elements of ambient melody and post rock gusto, but not once does anything that Trouvé applies here, overshadow one another.

The sound of running water kicks off “Day and Night of a Scarecrow”, but rather quickly the emphasis is on the chiming and mellow sounds of the ivory keys. Picturing oneself driving along country roads at night is something that can quite easily come to the fore while enjoying this emotive and pastoral themed piece. The combination of ambient sounds and return of the glockenspiel, as well as a prolific drum beat half way through, helps add yet another string to Monochromie’s already weighty bow. The piece’s steady build up ends with in cacophonous and head banging manner, one which brings about a form of euphoria not previously evident on this record. “Fireworks” continues in the same vein as the previous track, with what sounds like a blowing wind coming into play. Something which sits quite comfortably alongside the persistent static crackling and electronic beats, which Trouvé has become so accustomed to mixing so exceptionally well.

Final track “Insomnia” begins with a sample of male choir member, and is swiftly followed up with the sound of a bagpipe, which hits you right out of left field. It’s a composition that has the capability to take you away on an exciting night time adventure, one which if you weren’t able to easily fall asleep, once you’d turned the bedside lamp off, would be the perfect antidote you should turn to. Enlighten Yourself While You Sleep is an album that can with one easy motion, remove you from whatever it is you’re doing, and take you on an exhilarating, evocative and emotional journey. 

This review was written for No More Workhorse

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