Title: Rave Tapes
Record Label: Sub Pop/Rock Action
It would seem dipping their artist toes into the world of soundtracking and cinema has bled through into Mogwai’s day job. The Scottish five piece have lent their post-rock wares to accompany the visuals to Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, the motion picture that captures French footballing genius, Zinedine Zidane in full majestic flow. The Glaswegian collective most recently provided the atmospheric backdrop to supernatural thriller, Les Revenants (or The Returned for UK viewers). Setting the scene was key for each of these projects, Mogwai in turn set aside their bruising noise assaults for an aural stillness fit for the big and small screen.
After decamping to their hub of creativity – the amazingly named, Castle of Doom studios – Mogwai have readied their eighth studio LP, Rave Tapes. To knock you off the scent straight away, don’t expect a collection of hedonistic dance-bangers that invoke underground music’s heyday. Rave Tapes, is an extension of the band’s celluloid work, with an album of elegant noise manipulation that quells the cacophony for something more reserved but altogether enchanting.
Tense without ever being intimidating, Rave Tapes is an odyssey with ebb and flow – the album commences with the trill of ‘Heard About You Last Night’, a track that invokes witching hour stillness and the chiming amalgamation of piano, thrumming bass and the odd, desolate guitar line. The intermittent quiver of shoegaze fuzz drifts in and out whilst the track ambles at a soothing pace. ‘Remurdered’ finds Mogwai flirting with their inner Daft Punk but as if the French duo never dreamt up ‘Get Lucky’. The five instead slip in menacing stabs of synth and chugging guitars that generate a brooding, unsettling eeriness which grows in crescendo to something altogether more expansive. ‘Mastercard’ chews up the album’s earlier calm for abrupt downward stroked guitar jabs and a surging mesh of crashed cymbals and layered noise. Forging a sound that is epic but without the pitfalls of being trite is a hard act to fulfil but on ‘Deesh’, Mogwai propel themselves into skyscraping territory, sidestepping all grandiose clichés.
Around 85% an instrumental record, Rave Tapes contains three tracks that boast a vocal track. ‘Repelish’s moody endeavours complement a spoken word entry about Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and rock’s obsession with Satan. There’s even the subliminal message mentions anchored around reverse-wound passages about worshiping the devil. Band lynchpin, Stuart Braithwaite’s tender vocals are heard on the sombre, yet rousing ‘Blues Hour’, this is the moment on Rave Tapes where serenity and discordance combine, resulting in a thrilling war of two worlds. Finally, the album is brought to a close via ‘The Lord Is Out Of Control’ a haunting vocoder treated finale to an exhilarating record.
Rave Tapes is a textured, layered album at its nucleus, one that combines simplicity with complex, challenging song structures. An Oscar winning performance of an album if there ever was one.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams