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Live Review: No Mono's 'Tidal Fight' is a masterclass in minimalism

1 March 2018 | 10:55 am | Kyle Fensom

Ahead of their debut LP, No Mono offer a masterclass in Arthur Russell-influenced minimalist composition with their latest single, 'Tidal Fight'.

After refining their relationship for years, Tom Snowdon of Lowlakes and Tom Iansek of #1 Dads and Big Scary decided to distil their artistic chemistry via the collaborative project of NO MONO. The duo have now unveiled the third single from that project, ‘Tidal Fight’, preceding their forthcoming debut LP, Islands (Part 1).  

A history of artistic collaboration shines through, as No Mono continue to fill out their already well defined sonic palette here, opening the track with a pulsating, airy synth, a crunching backbeat, and sumptuous atmospherics. According to Snowdon, the intimate cut “is the track that inspired a lot of the ideas on the record. The words tell the story of moving away from a safe and familiar spot, like an old friendship or relationship, and into the unknown. It’s about starting over – about needing to break away from the known and become something else to stay above water.”

No Mono’s work thus far has evinced an affinity for the work of ARTHUR RUSSELL, and the duo continue to prove that they share a common musical DNA with the avant-garde cellist and dance composer on ‘Tidal Fight’. Like Russell’s work, ‘Tidal Fight’ is a starkly minimalist composition. And whilst there’s some tinkering around the margins of the track – syncopated hi-hats are introduced in the bridge before disappearing again, chimes softly echo in the background – for the most part the nucleus of the track remains the same. It gives the impression of something deeper but unexplored and not entirely filled-out within the music. If Snowdon and Iansek are enveloping us in an ocean of sound, these elements hint towards the possibility that we’re initially only looking at the surface of No Mono’s music.

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Again, like much of Russell’s work, it’s possible to imagine a version of the track that was once an outright infectious pop song – if only there wasn’t also something so intangibly weird and fractured about it. Nowhere is this more evident than Snowdon’s hypnotically acrobatic vocal performance. Case in point: With submerged strings swelling and layered backing vocals from AINSLIE WILLS, the chorus has all the contours of a big pop hook, but Snowdon’s opaque vocals pull it back in to something more restrained, subtle and ambiguous, resisting the easy emotional release of big pop music. Instead, as the track progresses, heavy guitar notes and jarring synths infrequently intrude on the composition, moving it towards a final conclusion that’s crushing in its extended emotional intensity and fervour.

In a masterclass of minimalism, the duo take the fundamental elements that they start the track with and they build an entire song around it, working and moulding each component, looping that airy, pulsating synth until it feels almost claustrophobic by the final coda.

Islands (Part 1) is out May 4 via Pieater – you can pre-order it here.

Photo: Alan Weedon (