Sometimes, I review an album because I really feel like I should. Believe me, we get thousands of promos a year, and I find that I don’t like a certain portion of them. In the interest of not bashing albums all the time, I generally try to talk about albums that are important (even if they are awful), that I like, or that just have this certain allure that grabs me. The new album from Monnaie De Singe falls into the latter category. “The Last Chance” is a mysterious album that released back in March.
Monnaie De Singe hails from France. The name roughly means “Monkey Money” in English, I think. The band consists of Anne-Gaëlle Rumin-Montil on vocals, Serge Combettes on bass, Philippe Chavaroche on keys, Eric Farges on drums, and both Christophe Laporte and JPhilippe Moncanis on guitars. While the lineup may seem ordinary for any prog band, these musicians use their instruments in anything but ordinary fashion.
The musical style is honestly somewhat difficult to describe, though it is fairly simple in presentation. I personally would call it post-prog, not necessarily prog rock, though that obviously is an influence. Now, most post-prog has some sort of post-rock influence with climactic structures and that sort of thing, but this band does not. Their style is shadowy, evocative, and cerebral; but also with hints of alternative, too. I would even call their style embryonic and amniotic due to its murky and beautifully detached movements. The textures are at the forefront from beginning to end. You may expect some sort of explosive instrumental portion or toweringly epic ending, but that is not the point here. The goal seems to be music that is vibrant and stark; full of otherworldly, spacey feelings; but also beautifully poetic and hauntingly rhythmic. There is a sort of darkly introverted movement to the music that will imprint itself on your mind, like swirling inky figures.
The lyrical content matches the music very well. The basic idea is that of environmental concern, which isn’t all that uncommon of a theme, but such is the effect that current events have on works of art. Anyways, the album tells the story of an Earth that is close to consuming all of its resources, and in the midst of this a team leaves Earth to find a new home. Yes, it matches the recent Ayreon album, but instead of over the top cheese and metal, this album is subtle and masked.
“The Last Chance”, then, is a methodical, ominous album that will take time to grow on you. It achieves this with quite a bit of bass presence, not to mention the quirky vocal grooves and the hovering keys. Guitars are distorted and used mainly for effect, not to create the basic rhythms of the songs. The album feels punctuated, low key, and burning. All of it comes together into a package that is an experience that really does not sound like anything else. That said, some songs work better than others, and some immerse you in the experience more than others.
There are several stand out tracks on the album. “I AM” is a wonderful opener with probably the most upbeat tone on the album. It is striking in how subtle it really is. “Seven Billion Dreams” is a slinking, dark song that takes you to the underworld. “Emergency” has this wonderful opening that almost reminds me of Pink Floyd, but only in concept, not sound.
Other great tracks abound, too. The title track is shady and eerie, casting a shadow across your mind. “Not Under Fifty” is electronic and features a different singer, and it really works to refresh your brain. I also really like “Luckystar”, the heaviest song on the album: It is also the closest to a straightforward song that you will get, and I love the roaring guitar work.
Overall, Monnaie De Singe has a great work of art on their hands here. It absolutely will not be for everyone, and I would even go so far as to say that most “open-minded” prog fans may not even “get” it. However, I recognize the genius here in the shadowy textures, the floating concepts, and the immersive experience. I do think it could be a bit tighter in presentation and production, and some of the songs don’t feel fully developed; but I also think the band is really on to something here and their sound is really something that leaves an impression.
Find MDS online: