With nearly two decades looming as a behemoth over British post-rock, Mogwai’s place in the lexicon of our nation’s music is assured, frequently wielding a power with grace most other bands would be fortunate to capture even graspingly. No strangers to composing a score, Mogwai had already crafted the soundtrack to a loving feature film portrait of enigmatic French footballer, Zidane, when they were invited to write the score for upcoming French drama series, Les Revenants. The story takes a unique perspective on the zombie stories of popular fame, by imagining the rehabilitation of the walking dead, who pose no threat or danger.
It’s the twist in the tale that perhaps shackles Mogwai, rather than applying all the raw intensity of a track like ‘Glasgow Mega Snake’ to a Romero-esque massacre of the undead, they’re shuffled into a darker, quieter position of unease and introspection. The album opens with the unattractively titled ‘Hungry Face’ which bears a striking and reassuring resemblance to Clint Mansell’s score to modern classic Moon. ‘The Huts’ makes for a shadowy and sparse guitar strum, almost with a fanatically entranced quality while ‘Special N’ introduces a hopeful lushness. Fellow soundtrack staples are mirrored firstly with ‘Fridge Magic’, a sober channelling of classic ‘28 Days Later’ score song ‘In The House In A Heartbeat’ and then with ‘Modern’ sounding something like a HEALTH remix of Mogwai’s own ‘Auto Rock’.
The experience is filmic first and foremost, barely for a minute could ‘Les Revenants’ survive as a stand-alone album, but it’s the curiosity and atmospherics of that leant narrative that compels the listener through the album. It’s hard to appreciate the album in the context of the soundtrack, as it proves to be fourteen beautifully orchestrated snippets of sound that find themselves following much the same pattern. It would be hard not to argue that it’s wonderfully atmospheric and claustrophobic but also there’d be the same difficulty in arguing that it makes for a compelling album. Most tellingly of all the need to frame an external story robs this album of the sort of narrative you’d come to expect of Mogwai. It underlines their talent and ability, but that’s a mark that’s been made so indelibly over seven albums, that it barely need be made again. It only leads to something of a disappointment that not once in the fourteen songs do the flickering embers roar into the blazing inferno you’d been hoping for, if not expecting. With Mogwai really pushing the boundaries on last album ‘Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will’ this album reads as something as an apologetic reassurance to the doubters. And no, you fearful ones, Mogwai aren’t losing it. But for those that album lit a fiery confidence in - you may find yourself asking are they losing momentum?
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