Review Summary: Probably their most accessible effort so far…
Post rock pioneers, Mogwai seem to never run out of cool titles for their music. Breaking that usual wall of dead seriousness the genre evokes, these Scots have always had a knack for sarcasm and mocking others or themselves. This approach probably has a lot do to with their musically carefree attitude as well. Whether striking gold or failing to deliver, they always continue to experiment. Thus, each album ultimately shares a different direction and overall vibe. Losing guitarist John Cummings was worrisome, yet the band successfully marches on. Every Country’s Sun
is probably their most accessible effort so far, being powerful, dynamic and emotional.
Leaning towards melodic territories exploited by God is an Astronaut or Explosions in the Sky, Every Country’s Sun
feels like a mélange of the respective groups' output and Mogwai’s own explorations during their career. This hybrid result is undoubtedly familiar, however, the arrangements are considerably more straightforward, as a result of less emphasis on the abrupt quiet-loud techniques that characterizes the earlier work. Technically, they followed a bit the footsteps of the ones they influenced, adding their own unmistakable formulas in between. There are also some ‘80s new wave remnants that pop up too, especially on ‘Party in the Dark’. Featuring vocoded vocals over a fairly basic, uplifting rhythm, this lovely song brings the pop side to the forefront. ‘Coolverine’, on the other hand, shares that warm, cosmic touch we are used to hearing from GIAA, but the group’s experience speaks for itself. Its gorgeous arrangements flow seamlessly, from the deep bass lines to the rich string layers to pulsing synths constantly running in the background. Picking up towards the end are the cymbal-heavy drum patterns not the rest of the instruments, which is a nice, unexpected move.
Meanwhile, from the 7-minute ‘Crossing the Road Material’ you would expect a really slow build up, still, a mid-tempo groove easily settles in. Gradually intensifying into a luxurious segment, it maintains its energy all the way until it lands very smoothly. The several layers that make up the bulk of the track are meant to work together rather than supporting a single instrument. Also, I must admit this organic approach suits them much better than the electronic bonanza present on Rave Tapes
& its surrounding releases. On the softer side, ‘aka 47’ brings forth sparse keyboards and a background synth alongside few twangy guitar notes. The hazy, rather uneasy atmosphere it evokes (hence the title) is very compelling. I can definitely see it featured on an episode of Stranger Things. On the contrast, ‘Don’t Believe the Fife’ possesses a bittersweet tone, rapidly becoming mesmerizing through its sporadic piano leads and pounding floor toms. Ultimately, it bursts into a heavily distorted and effective epic. It’s been a while since Mogwai had such energy, so it sure feels welcomed.
From here to the end of the LP, things get darker, reminiscing the powerful attacks of Young Team
, albeit in a condensed formula. ‘Battered at a Scramble’ is introduced by a fat bass line, followed by noisy drumming and guitar solos. Martin is the unsung hero of this album, after being quite tame in the past few years. ‘Old Poisons’ doesn’t waste any time, beginning with a greasy riff that gives way to multiple others. Like a murky ‘San Pedro’, the breakdown is embellished by dissonant guitar leads and stop-start, fill-heavy drums. Restarting halfway, we’re offered a slightly more harmonic coda, but just as powerful as before. Then, we reach the end with the massive title track, acting like an album retrospective. With a huge intro slowly fading in, complete with eerie guitars, high-pitched leads and overwhelming crashing cymbals, it unleashes the most epic moments here. This song would work really well as the soundtrack of the final minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey
, it’s simply marvelous.
Although Every Country’s Sun
isn’t a flawless album (there are a number of tracks in the middle section that need more time to kick in), it shows us Mogwai nowhere near losing their touch. Of course purists will compare it with Young Team
and say it’s not good enough, but they have come a long way since the debut. As they continue to experiment, the LP feels just as surprising as it doesn’t. Even though they spend a lot of time fine honing their formulas (loud-quiet, silently moody, electronics, etc.), I like how at times they say *** it and do something straightforward without much fuss. As a huge fan of Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
], I find this effort in the same vein, yet different in atmosphere. While that one painted an urban landscape, this record rises above from the gutter to the clear skies and occasionally in outer space. I believe they sound really well played back to back and this is a great addition to their rich catalog.