Mong Tong | 銘 Epigraphy EP (No Gold)

I seem to be crossing my music and fiction genres with the latest EP from the Taiwanese psych duo Mong Tong, made up of brothers Hom Yu and Jiun Chi. This mini-album presents a future history sci-fi concept—the discovery of an underwater musical artifact, representing a 500-year-old moment in time when internet music was everything, a.k.a. right now.

The mood is set in ambient percussion with simple, subtle melodies overlaid in soothing repetition. Tying the tracks together is a common thread of underwater distortion toying with common, everyday sounds. It feels like a Dancer in the Dark sequence, finding music in the routine machinations of a factory, then submerging the whole scene in a dream sequence flood. 

It makes for great work music in that it moves quickly but not dramatically. Tracks range from 1:14 to 2:36 in length, so you run through the full EP pretty quickly in a work day, but it supports a state of flow and momentum so you can happily play it on repeat rather than interrupt your train of thought to choose something else.

Here are a few impressions the tracks painted for me:

The lilting pace of “Didadi” sounds like a giant playing with a merry-go-round—giving it a spin, shoving a stick in the bars like bicycle spokes, watching it slow, and juicing the spin again with another twist of the top.

At the other end of the spectrum, “Bronze” sounds like a tiny player piano programmed for tiny keys to trigger tiny hammers to hit tiny bells at steady intervals.

The hand drums in “Felt” give a glug-glug-glug like a diver releasing air bubbles off an island beach, occasionally coming up for air to hear a late afternoon guitar player casually riffing in a hammock. 

“Raw” conjured a very specific memory for me, reminding me of the last time I went to a concert without earplugs. When we went to check into our Chicago hotel room after the show (a glorious, face-melting ripper—I regret nothing), I could not understand a thing the clerk said to me. I could see his mouth forming words, but my ears registered his voice like someone tapping a penny on the bottom of a pool. The beginning of “Raw” is that sound, like underwater construction, mining with a pickaxe or driving in nails on the ocean floor.

“Clay” is punctuated by playful can-pops like an old Pringles commercial, combined with some sassy guitar licks reminiscent of the Seinfeld opening with tropical flavor of pinging kalimba tines. 

The steady but variegated ticking in “Strings” feels like walking through a timepiece warehouse full of clocks, metronomes, and a steadily dripping faucet, with the occasional wild card of a clacker noisemaker to throw it all off kilter—all various ways of measuring the constant ticking away of time.

The longest is the final track, “Birds,” clocking in at 2:36. This reels with dreamy melody that would fit right into a Cocteau Twins album, now featuring a digital rainstick.

Mong Tong nailed the story they set out to tell. 銘 Epigraphy is an atmospheric tool rather than a personal expression, much in the same way perfume oils can be used for scene-setting an alchemical laboratory or chicken-legged hut in a D&D game rather than announcing a person entering a room. This is not about being in the mood to hear a song, but employing a sound to set a mood. It’s not the stuff of ear worms, but it creates a space you want to occupy for a while, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need. | Courtney Dowdall

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *