Review Summary: Elder statesmen of post-rock portray another example of their lasting radiance.
Last year saw eminent post-rock band Mogwai
revisiting the medium for which their music is arguably best suited for, as they composed the soundtrack Les Revenants
for the French television program of the same name. Translated as “The Returned,” the show’s plot details a town’s experience with the reappearance of individuals who had been thought to have passed away. This couldn’t be more thematically indicative of Mogwai
: congealed emotions of sorrow and mystery lightly veiling the constant glimmer of optimistic expectation. Album number eight for Mogwai
, Rave Tapes
, feels like a progression from the mindset which the band presented on Les Revenants
, albeit with an even more exceptional portrayal of their boldly subtle songwriting.
Yet, this wasn’t quite the impression that the video for the track “The Lord Is out of Control” offered when it was released at the close of last year. The song is certainly a strong one, with a swirl of post-rock and vocoder coming across as if the band had shot up heroine and then attempted to cover the slowest track on Daft Punk
’s Random Access Memories
. But it felt slightly discouraging, as if the band was insinuating that Rave Tapes
would be an album largely and/or entirely indebted to electronic aesthetics. However, its role on the album is now overwhelmingly obvious, as its closing of the album is brimming with purpose and poignancy.
Context is truly the key element with Mogwai
; the proper mindset is beyond essential. With the nine tracks that precede “The Lord Is out of Control,” having the aforementioned mentality brings out the brilliance found throughout Rave Tapes
. Picture a maimed dove bearing the ripest of olive branches: what has come may seem bleak, but what will come has never shone more brightly. And with bleeding guitars, careful percussion and aggrieved but buoyant melodies, Mogwai
creates and maintains this focus with a level of mastery that only a seasoned musician can achieve.
While the tracks are all worth dissecting on an individual level, the most important to focus upon are “Blues Hour” and “No Medicine and Regret,” as they crush the stereotype of post-rock albums tracklists’ thinning appeal by assuring the album remains engaging. The former is an outstanding piano and vocal ballad soaked in vulnerability, while the latter provides a tuneful highlight for the album with a jangling, trance inducing chord that feels like a distorted baroque harpsichord.
There is another track that should be noted though, but not for praise. While the songwriting on “Repelish” is still top-notch, there is a mini-sermon by a religious zealot decrying the wickedness of Led Zeppelin
’s “Stairway to Heaven,” stating, for example, that a place in heaven cannot be purchased. Seeing as the credit for the voice is given to a Rev. Lee Cohen, it could perhaps be argued that this message is genuine, but even if it isn’t, it feels unnecessary. Besides, most music fans probably don’t want to hear inane critiques about such a highly regarded song and band. Still, to be fair, it seems that people were able to ignore the religious ramblings of Deafheaven
(a band unquestionably influenced by Mogwai
) on the Sunbather
track “Windows,” so perhaps “Repelish” won’t seem all that problematic to some listeners.
This small blemish aside, Rave Tapes
is a late career triumph for Mogwai
. Each of the album’s ten tracks brings something forward worth celebrating and raising up during this year and in years to come. Though their influence is being honed and perfected by modern acts, these post-rock Scots don’t seem to be losing their grip on the torch whatsoever.