Originally published by SF Weekly March 8, 2000
©2000 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.
Peeping Through the Listen Hole
By David Cook
The "pause" in Mono Pause must be your own. It's the one the band's music gives you as you listen and wonder, first: Are these guys serious? Then: What are they making fun of? And finally: Are they making fun of me?
The East Bay sextet has been one of the area's best-kept secrets for the past seven years, mostly because it seldom plays in San Francisco. A recent gig at Bottom of the Hill began with goofing in a dozen different directions: Mark Gergis playing with uptempo drumbeats, his brother Erik changing moods on the synthesizer, Peter Conheim keeping up on bass. At another unexpected shift, Heco Davis suddenly busted out on the soprano sax with Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street," and as though they'd been headed for this all along, the rest of the band joined right in, straight-faced, at once delighting and confounding the crowd. Mono Pause is just as likely to play a whole song backward, stop the set to stage an open mike poetry reading, or have a plant in the audience appear to get fed up and attack the band. With Swiftian wit, band members slide between the straight and ridiculous, never cracking a smile.
But none of the audio and visual gags the band pulls would work if the music itself weren't highly inventive, as this all-too-brief recording demonstrates, though it serves more as a sampler of the many moods of Mono Pause than a definitive document of its sound. Actually, there's no one sound. With instrumentation that ranges from traditional horns, guitars, and drums to synthesizers and samplers, the band explores everything from straight-ahead rock to completely out-there jazz to Middle Eastern music. It also throws in loops of "found sound" -- as in the hilarious exchange between a young girl and her mother, who's trying to get her to bed, on "At the End of Yours" -- and the occasional lyric, sometimes introducing all these elements in the same short song. Then there's a beautiful untitled track, on which the band simply glides on a North African wave of synthesizer, introduces oddly appropriate surf guitar, and rides the composition into its easy conclusion.
From a purely musical standpoint, Mono Pause is never boring, if only
because the band seems determined to stomp down every path that opens up
as it cuts through its own dense audio jungle with sharp humor and demented