Bathed in blue and green hues, as smoke envelopes the stage the goal of the night is intimacy, intimacy held perhaps at an arm’s length. No Mono the new project by #1 Dads and Big Scary member Tom Iansek and Tom Snowdon of Lowlakes relishes in the private moments, whether they are obscured by the darkness of night or the haze of the early dawn. The greater confines of the Joan Sutherland Theatre do little to draw away from the almost insular production and atmospheres that characterise their debut record Islands, Pt. 1.
That isn’t to say that the sheer size of the occasion was lost on either member with Snowden breaking from his centred concentration to state, “It’s a special moment for us to play the Sydney Opera House”. This bigger occasion was marked with the beauty of the grand piano settled at the back of the stage that when Iansek was playing transformed the atmosphere of the set, from Arca influenced futuristic R&B to more of a lounge singer vibe.
The fingers of progressive producers and songwriters can be seen spread through No Mono’s music, there is the aforementioned Arca who has worked with FKA Twigs, who the duo have previously covered to the subtle bass variations of James Blake. Their layered music made liberal use of backing rhythm tracks to allow the two-piece to focus on other sonic elements, Iansek jumping between piano, synthesisers, bass and bongos throughout the set, while Snowdon led on vocals and guitar.
Snowdon’s rich vibrato warble draws no unreasonable comparison to Anhoni Hegarty and in the confines of the Opera House was provided with the setting and sounds quality to show his full potential. The lack of a live rhythm section served in a way to centre more attention back on Snowdon’s vocals having them take centre stage, whether it was on the hip-hop beat infused “Desert”, which saw him drop into a moody baritone, the more traditional, rock-leaning “Future”, or the operatic heights of “Tidal Fight”.
Moving through these subtle variations in sound the duo created a real still mood throughout the theatre. It was the sort of transfixed set where you feel uncomfortable to have your voice break above a whisper or look at the screen of a mobile phone lest you break the mood of those around you. It is a goal most artists strive for, to just for a moment pull us away from another regular day and create a moment, a mood that stands alone for just that moment in time. For an hour, No Mono managed to achieve that.
The reviewer attended this show on June 1st at the Joan Sutherland Theatre.
Images courtesy of Prudence Upton.