“Mono” takes a patient ear. It begins in the most minimal manner. Just one introductory beat and an oozing hum of bass that stretches mysteriously. A vocalist–Rahm Silvergrade–enters, hush-singing in a manner that might initially leave you making comparisons to Oliver Sims of the xx. Stick with it, because “Mono,” the latest single from the New York band Altopalo, is certainly worth the investment.
It’s a masterclass in atmospheric release, evolving with eerie synths, flourishing guitar, and commanding beats. As the track’s clicks and synths pick up and consume your attention, they start to mimic Silvergrade’s own thoughts on a relationship—a sonic metaphor for the distractions that may often sabotage a lover’s dedication. Silvergrade’s lyrics are unpunctuated and inconclusive stream-of-consciousness, pondering the unnatural status of being confined with one lover. At first his words are puzzling, but after several listens they become philosophical and pertinent: “You love what you love/And you love it all/Careless reciprocity,” he sings. The way he pronounces “reciprocity,” savoring each syllable, recalls the way Lauryn Hill raps her tongue around that word on “Ex-Factor,” another ode to the damage caused by singular affection. Altopalo have ties to Moses Sumney and Amber Mark, and like those acts, they show a deep awareness of their forebears, but a curiosity to break down the traditions of past R&B eras. They strip the layers away and rebuild a new palette, injecting fresh blood into the notion of a soul jam.