Living The Mono Life

I wrote this without knowing what the election result was so I’ve no idea if this morning is one of elation or despair. Despair I expect. Anything else is a bonus.

Some of the teenagers I work with like to say (ironically I think) ‘I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me’. East Yorkshire’s Mark Osborne didn’t choose the thug life, he chose the Mono Life. Mono Life’s first album, released back in 2015, was a Bagging Area end of year favourite. A couple of weeks ago he released his second, Sandalphon. I wanted to give it a good listen and live with it rather than type up a hasty review. This means that he’s had to fight for airtime with some recent big hitters who’ve put out new albums in May, Jane Weaver and The Charlatans mainly.

Sandalphon is an album not just a collection of tracks put together, it works as a coherent whole, buzzing with ideas and invention from start to finish. Opening track The Science Of Love And Deception with juddering synths and beats is a powerful statement of intent and from there on he covers the gamut of electronic styles, from acid house to big beat, via Crockett And Tubbs, an 80s style electronic funk. Phantoms rides in on a cool breakbeat and bleeps. Radiate echoes Leftfield’s dub techno. Dusky is low slung and optimistic. Closer The End (Keep Smiling) opens with washes of noise and builds from there, darker and less sunny than much of what’s gone before it. Some piano finds its way in and then the distortion and static returns for the end. Mono Life has one foot in the past for sure, dance music’s back pages are where this comes from, but there’s also an eye looking forwards to an electronic future.

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