The Last Dawn and Rays of Darkness are a pair of new albums by MONO. Recorded simultaneously yet conceptually and creatively disparate, the two act as both opposing and complementary sides to a story. No strangers to narratives, the twin albums explore familiar themes for the band: Hope and hopelessness, love and loss, immense joy and unspeakable pain. Those elemental parts of life and the complicated relationships they create have never been more resonant through MONO’s music than they are here. The Last Dawn is the first of these two companion albums, and is the “lighter” of the two, thematically and melodically. It contains undoubtedly some of MONO’s strongest songs ever, drawing on an array of influences from minimalist film score to vintage shoegaze. It is MONO at their absolute purest, executing an uncanny, unspoken dialogue with each other without the dozens of stringed instruments that have been so prominent throughout their catalog in recent years. The songs are also noticeably more efficient – there hasn’t been a MONO full-length record that fit on a single slab of vinyl since 2003’s One Step More And You Die – and the album benefits immeasurably from this streamlined approach. MONO have always been masters of telling compelling stories without words. But now they’ve proven they can do it without frills, too.