Made on the Couch: MOUNI

Review by Rebecca Blandón

A converted Buddhist and long-time songwriter, MOUNI prefers to vocalize most of his thoughts in song. He isn’t one to give lengthy or romanticized responses about his music.

Since his 2012 debut via Bandcamp, MOUNI has built a reputable repertoire of indie-folk, rock, and ambient music he calls “couch music.” It’s the sort of meditative sound that’s meant to be experienced from a couch - after all, it was made from a man on his good old couch.

Sometimes great talent comes from those who have trouble swallowing their own excellence.

Mark Menucci, a 25 year old Rhode Island native from the town of Manville, likes to call himself a “humble act,” despite having released an impressive collection of 10 short albums via Bandcamp in the past three years. Big paid artists don’t even accomplish such feats, so just imagine what it’s like for a DIY artist making music with one mic from a living room temporarily converted  into a “recording studio.” Tough stuff, right?

Mark, better known as his moniker MOUNI, has been experimenting with music since he received his first guitar at age nine. Upon meeting MOUNI, I couldn’t help but have respect for his overall serene demeanor. A converted Buddhist and long-time songwriter, MOUNI prefers to vocalize most of his thoughts in song. He isn’t one to give lengthy or romanticized responses about his music. He identifies as a “normal guy” who just happens to make music when he’s not working his regular day job.

Reminiscent of Mutual Benefit, his music is instrumentally focused, shifting attention to sounds that include backtracked recordings, sped-up riffs, feedback manipulation, and even sampled soundscapes of nature. His tracks are memorable, imbuing a feeling of imagination and a sense of growth. Perhaps it’s his uncanny ability to express the harsh reality of maturation without overwhelming the listener with indiscernible instruments that slowly become timbres of welcomed familiarity.

“Super Chills,” off his 2013 Dreamsicle EP births hope with a soft opening, singing: when you fall apart/you’ve made it. His unconventional and ingenious techniques also make this song a special one: the background is surprisingly made from a sped up version of a reversed guitar and vocal recording.

The rest of his works follow a similar pattern of successful risk-taking, effectively pivoting his music in multiple directions without necessarily transgressing from his musical style. He’s learned to act on gut feelings from the very best, deriving inspiration from mega-acts like the Pixies, Bowie, and Nirvana.

His latest method in Air employs heavy feedback, which he balances with loopy twang and confident vocals.

“It’s really hard to do, but I think I did a good job, “ he adds with uncertainty.

There’s nothing cloudy about MOUNI’s music, except for maybe psychedelic fuzz. Working primarily solo allows him to be a little more transparent in his creation of “raw music,” as he likes to call it. MOUNI’s robust and high-registered vocals also strengthen the project’s grittiness although he plans to start working on low-register croons.

MOUNI’s tactful arrangements are much clearer in some of his best tracks like “Rattle,” “Yoni,” and “Troubadour Rise,” in which crackles, fluidity of phrase, and interwoven riffs create magical-sounding moments of clarity. His entire collection of 10 short albums also reveals a hallmark sound sprinkled among a few genre styles over the past three years; his earlier tracks call to mind the air of a folksy Pink Floyd and at times a tinge of Phillip Glass without losing his unique voice.

MOUNI’s sensational rhythms and yearning vocals emanate from the many personal relationships he’s garnered throughout the years, growing up in a small but dense community of artists. His family and friends have always been at the core of, what he calls, “sentimental music.”

His best friend’s father taught him guitar in earlier years, encouraging MOUNI to develop dexterity and acquire good taste in music. His friend’s father also told stories of Providence in the 1970s, when musicians managed to live off the music they performed at live shows. Today, Providence, like the rest of the world, is harsher on the everyday artist and musician, but the bleak truth doesn’t seem to phase MOUNI.MOUNI graduated Rhode Island College a few years ago and plans to attend graduate school for biology quite soon. And even though he fervently believes that “Music is a part of life,” he isn’t blinded by the notion of fame. He separates his ambitions as an artist from that of a professional career.

Providence is a friendly arena of ambitious artists, and MOUNI considers himself a modest but dedicated contender among them. Compared to Rhode Island legends like Lightening Bolt and Roz and the Rice Cakes, MOUNI is less focused on self-promotion. Sharing music from the privacy of his home via the internet precedes his expectation of booking local shows himself. He is the sort of artist that would rather be summoned by the people who really care about his music rather than those who feed off an artist’s image or profitability.

“I only play shows that people invite me to,” he says. “Providence is small enough to know each other” as well, which enables him to make a stronger impact on the community of listeners and musicians alike.

MOUNI challenges himself to continue practicing and writing whenever he gets the chance to do so, often inspired by his friends and fellow artists. MOUNI believes that “Friendships cut the deepest,” which make them much more cathartic stories to tell through music.

In writing new music, MOUNI admits,“I have no patience with myself.”

But if MOUNI’s past record is any indication of his future works, nothing seems capable of thwarting him from writing prolifically. When he’s not working a regular daytime job, he’s writing songs.

Contently labeling himself as a long-time “warm up act” in the Rhode Island music scene, MOUNI stepped out of his comfort zone into the limelight, headlining his first show just last week at AS220’s Psychic Readings. MOUNI is perking local ears pair by pair and you’d be sorry to mute out.

>> Don’t miss his next show October 18th at Dusk! Expect another world element-inspired EP to follow his most recent releases, Water and Air and check out his music on Bandcamp and Youtube.