There is something about Milanku and their latest record Á l’aube that causes me to think, there is only one possible comparison and that might be the biggest one to draw in this little niche of ours: Envy. Yes, the one and only Envy. The masters from Japan and their unique sound. Milanku must have listened carefully and then transferred their newly gained insights perfectly into their own realms. Hard to beat in 2023.
Everyone listen, please. This is Post-Hardcore in the most ambiguous of definitions: This is Post- as in Post-Metal or Post-Rock with all their slowly building crescendos and arpeggios which sometimes seem to spiral out of control. Some of the heavier parts on this record seem to reach right up into the shelves where we usually only stack the greatest bands like ISIS or Neurosis or … you know what I mean. This is also Hardcore as there is a radical-ness to the way that these guys from Montreal, Quebec, Canada perform their music, that one cannot but acknowledge the totally punk’ish middle finger they raise against any expectations from the outside, no matter if friend or foe.
Now to come to my comparison to the Japanese unicorns who seem to take everyone who ever watches any of their live shows by the throat, shake off their wisdom about what heavy guitar driven music can do and re-model it all according to their own liking. Milanku do the same and on Á l’aube (English “in the darkness” or also: “in the Madrugada”) and it shows perfectly on their very first song ”de leurs silences” (“about their silence”) which is also the longest track on these 38 minutes of breathtaking soundscapes. There is some Indie-adjacent, slow, ominous opening with vast spaces filling in for each other and everybody recognizes the patience with which the guys are adding layer upon layer, level upon level of volume, riff and atmosphere nearly exaggerating this method to the utter max so that when once the vocals and the cymbals set in at around 4:35 minutes it comes as an utter surprise because many (including yours truly) had already marked this as a classic instrumental Post-Metal song! But then the vocals kick in and it becomes obvious how well they fit in this sound as the guitar draw up more and more behind the vocals sometimes even outperforming them. A minute of sheer force and then a sudden break and another build-up, obviously a bit shorter than before but a resurrected gathering of momentum, but this time with the guitar more in single-note-mode and then changing to heavy riffs. There is not one single moment in this near eleven minutes which seems unimportant, which could be chopped off.
There is a certain delicate nature to Milanku’s sound and it has always been there, but on tracks like ”il sera déjà trop tard” (“it will be too late”) it becomes even clearer. The drum pattern is a shifty march and the guitars on top of it sometimes sound a bit like Caspian, but once again Envy come to my mind. And in some way I recognize the sounds having more of that slightly more urgent sound that bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Do Make Say Think made their own while Envy on the other hand seem to have taken some of the lightest moments Mono gave us. Just listen to the bass line which is a bit stronger – thus the Post-Rock elements certainly have that Quebecois feeling, as if transporting the wind from the wide prairies of the Great Country up North into their soundscape.
To compare any band with Envy is a risk because of the uniqueness of Envy’s sound and style – but if there is one band to come close while not even trying to do so – it’s certainly Milanku. And Á l’aube is one of the highlights of 2023 and not to be overlooked or taken lightly. This is Post-Hardcore in all its dimensions and definitions and certainly one of the best records of 2023.