25 years into their career Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai return with their 10th studio album, not including various film soundtracks and EP’s, of which their output has also been equally impressive. This far into their career and with such a vast catalogue of sounds you can almost pinpoint the moment you know that you’re listening to a Mogwai album. Whether it be the deep gloomy atmospheres or the outrageously harsh and brutal guitar passages, they’ve honed their sound to be instantly recognisable and ultimately enjoyable. Following on from 2017’s Every Country’s Sun, this new full length studio album sees the outfit delve into familiar territory whilst keeping their ever expanding sound passages open for all to inhabit.
Perhaps at this point in the career it might be fair to say that Mogwai don’t have much left to prove, they’ve certainly shown their worth with every aspect of their catalogue. And when it comes to soundtracks they have lent their dystopian soundtracks to be the backbone of others creative projects. On this album however it feels as if they’re trying to tell a story of their own, through the harsh and uneven sonic landscapes theirs hope to be found in the darkest of places. Opener “To The Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth” slowly builds through nostalgia filled piano melodies and sparkling guitars, almost as if starting on a journey taking the first steps. And it’s only when the huge symphony of distorted guitars and grinding riffs kicks in at the 2 and a half minute mark that you feel this true sense of inspiration hitting with a wave of confidence. And on “Dry Fantasy” the arpeggiated synthesisers and flowing piano melodies invoke an almost dream like state, as you’re staring out into the morning sun watching the rise. You can feel every element of the song build until it reaches its spacey and evocative heights, capturing you in its warm and resonant feel.
This 70’s sci-fi space sound is one that Mogwai embrace on many occasion on this album. But more often than not it can at times use elements that can seem slightly cheap or even annoying that take away from the intensity of the rest of the sound. On “Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever” the vocoder effect thats layered over the lead guitar line is just too obnoxious so that you can’t focus on any other element of the driving sound. It’s like trying to watch the band play whilst someone is explaining to the entire history of Doctor Who. And on “Fuck Off Money”, another showcase of the band still being able to invent humorous track names, the song opens with the familiar vocoder smothered vocals, which sounds as if Daft Punk had tried to do emo rock, nice in concept but the final result becomes unsavoury. Thankfully however the second half of the track is redeemed be Mogwai doing what they do best, get loud. The huge cacophony of sounds reaches truly euphoric heights as every instrument battles it out to see which can have the lead in this war for power rock supremacy.
This feeling of euphoria is something the band plays into heavily towards the second half of the album. On the grunge infused “Ceiling Granny” the riffs are huge, the searing lead guitars sail into the stratosphere and once every instrument combines together to the chorus’ high rise you feel that this must be what it’s like to have the sun explode in your face. The high end of the mix does occasionally become so overwhelmed with the level of sonic intensity that it can ring out with great levels of white noise, but this is probably to be expected at this point from Mogwai. Then on “Pat Stains” the band moves through various swaying melodies, assuredly adding in various bubbling synthesisers until the climax of the track reaches a blissfuly woven whirlwind of distortion and strings. Once the storm passes you can feel the relief after the chaos as you realise you’ve overcome this great tribulation.
Sitting at just over an hour, the journey this album takes you can at times feel like those long hauls down the motorway, watching the scenery pass by and it all just seems to be the same, rolling hill after rolling hill, never bringing too much stimulation to pass the time. On “Drive The Nail” the band seems to get locked into the one chord punch for a while, to then bring in some glittery synthesisers and whack a distortion pedal on. Except this time the song has as much drive as a Fiat 500, it’ll get you where you want to go, but don’t expect anything breathtaking from it. And although “Midnight Flit” borrows elements of the bands soundtracking portfolio, incorporating gliding strings to sway the track through its movements. After the 4 minute mark however you feel as though you’ve heard all that can be offered already, and instead the track overstays it welcome, never really bringing any more movements or levels of textures.
What’s certain about this album however is that Mogwai can still express so much, whilst saying so little. Whether it be through blistering, swirling soundscapes that transport you into the cosmos, or serene atmospheres that reminisce in that lost love you never had, Mogwai will always be able to soundtrack some aspect of life.