‘Rave Tapes’ is Mogwai’s eighth long player. Eight. That they are now elder statesmen of post-rock seems to be a position that suits them well: ‘Rave Tapes’ may not see them moving too far from their widescreen template but it’s an assured record that sees them draw from right across their rich palette of textures.
Yet, part of the appeal and also part of the problem of a new Mogwai release is that you know, in essence, what you’ll be hearing. It is of course a seal of approval; over eight records their work has never dipped below very, very good. But you also know that you’ll be hearing epic, post-apocalyptic layered sounds. And, taken in this sense, ‘Rave Tapes’ can be viewed as a celebration of what has gone before.
It’s also a celebration in another way for a band who have been spreading their wings. This might be their first album since 2011 but the band have been busy: their work on undead drama Les Revenants and their touring of their Zidane soundtrack has given them a cinematic scope.
Opener ‘Heard About You Last Night’ is a quiet, slow-burning number that has that balance of warmth and dread the band do so well, while ‘Blues Hour’, led by Stuart Braithwaite’s delicate vocals, is all ghostly and beautiful before building into a big, brooding stormy finish. ‘Hexon Bogon’ and ‘Master Card’, on the other hand, bludgeon you with thousand-mile high guitars.
But it’s the more electronic moments that excite the most. ‘Simon Ferocious’’ creeping night time synths are magnificently noirish and when ‘Remurdered’ goes dancefloor half way through, with its urgent drumming, it sounds like it could be the soundtrack to Knightmare. Elsewhere ‘Deesh’ seethes with menace as splashing, woozy synth line blooms into something bigger and takes over your mind in a way that only Mogwai can do.
These unnerving moments and electronic flourishes show that ‘Rave Tapes’ is more than a side step. This won’t change your mind about Mogwai but it does more than enough to underline the fact that they are one of the most singular, interesting and disarming bands out there.
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