Monograf is a five-piece band from Oslo, Norway. Nadir is their debut album and the result of a long writing and recording process. The album was recorded and produced by songwriter Erik Aanonsen over a four-year period in a church, a hundred-year-old community center, an art school, two studios and a host of apartments in Oslo. This origin story alone is pretty impressive, and the result is likewise amazing and shows that it was definitely worth the efforts.
Nadir is a concept album of sorts, dealing primarily with the issue of money and its power over us. The word “Nadir” is used to describe the lowest point in a series of collected data. In the context of the album it expresses the lowest point of the human experience, when we deny our identity in order to get more of what we think will make us happy. History is full of examples of the destructive power of greed and lust for money and wealth and Monograf explore this topic on Nadir.
Lyrics like these, taken from the song “Horde”, express that every one of us has the responsibility for what we are doing, the consequences of our actions and of our consumer behaviour:
When will we ever learn
that money’s only vapor?
Our thoughts, their blood.
We reap, we gorge, they bleed; perversion
We are accountable for what we know;
we reap, we sow.
The coin on the cover is a symbol for all of this, a warning and a waking call. Too often we live in our “Western” bubble, ignoring what is going on around the world, the things that we support by living in luxury, at the expense of others. We want a lot, we want it fast and we don’t care about the consequences. Sometimes it seems like money is our god. But there are things you cant buy. And in the end, all the material wealth we’ve hoarded is nothing but vanity. We gain nothing. Death claims all of us.
The music these lyrics are transported and complemented by is melancholic and contemplative, the whole album is a meditation, both lyrically and musically. Combining meditative, atmospheric post-rock with a vast array of Norwegian folk elements, tastefully incorporated fiddle, acoustic guitar, Hammond organ and Chamberlin parts, Monograf succeed in creating a unique and fascinating sound. The music is varied and beautiful, with heavier wall-of-sound sections, subtle sections of haunting ambiance and beautiful moments of musical playfulness.
The vocals of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erik Aanonsen are melodious, emotional and at times almost fragile-sounding, oftentimes reminding me of My Epic’s Aaron Stone. In some instances, they are joined by fiddler Sunniva Molvær Ihlhaug, as well as backing vocals by the band’s drummer and bassist. Those almost choir-like vocal moments serve as peaks in the generally rather depressive emotional landscape of the album.
The final track “Horde”, which takes one third of the album’s whole playing time is definitely the most impressive piece on the record and showcases all of the elements mentioned above, combined into an extensive, evolving composition.
As a whole, the album clearly succeeds in conveying a feeling of sadness and desolation, but there are moments of hope to be found in some places on the record. Because that’s the way it is in real life, too, isn’t it? This darkness, the ugly character of society, the depressing reality of world hunger and social inequality, those things are heavy and unpleasing to face. But there is hope. There are ways to change things. We need to look for them and we need to act to enable a change. And that change has to start within ourselves.
Nadir will be released March 22nd and is available for pre-order at Bandcamp.