the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Mogwai
eclectic reviews and opinions
On the eve, more or less, of the release of their second proper album, I catch up with the history of Mogwai.
Johnny come-lately, what can I say? I'll be standing in line for the new album in a couple of weeks, probably pretending I knew all along.
Not many people are going to get it, but oh, if you do! Not the usual song structures, but more structure, and more complex structure at that, than in most "rock" music.
When was the last time you heard two 12-minute-plus songs on a record, neither of them boring? Now don't all talk at once.
When was the last time I spent an hour sitting on the floor of a semi-dark room, staring straight into a speaker, wondering what it was going bring me next?
Yeah, about an hour ago.
Well, what do we have here to hear?
Graceful, melodic bass lines evoke the memory of goth contenders like Joy Division and Fields of the Nephilim. Sometimes sparse, sometimes almost symphonic in its density. Hanging sheets of guitar sound, like cirrus clouds in the stratosphere. Melody emerging, shyly from overtones, forming in the beats between notes. Real piano. More loud/soft dynamics than you can shake a Slint at. An incredibly acute sense of the glorious tension that can exist between a fragile melody and pure sound. The end of "Like Herod," everything ultimately subsumed in a 60 cycle hum. Text buried deep in the mix of "Katrien," in a monotone like Velvet Underground's "Murder Mystery," daring me to try to make sense of the words, or assert that words are still part of the point. "With Portfolio" starts as a pretty little piano thing, and then as if the tape hiss gets disengaged from the piano, grows louder and softer unpredictably, turns itself on its head, begins to ping wildly across the stereo separation, mutating into strange new forms. It's almost frightening if you're in the right frame of mind. Aiden Moffet of Arab Strab lends disaffected half-spoken vocals to the self-sabotaging almost-love-song "R U still in 2 it:" "We could go into town and spend some money." "Mogwai Fear Satan," really earning the oft-over-applied word "epic" at 16 minutes. Guitars that screech, just for a bit, when you can tell they really weren't meant to. Startlingly pretty flute. Hear the breathing, know it's all still human, somewhere underneath this magnificent, otherworldly chaos.
Mogwai remain difficult to pigeonhole on their fifth full-length album. They've always loved noise for noise's sake, but they've never been afraid of melodies that are simple or pretty. This has often lent even their most aggressive material a stately quality. Songs like "Travel Is Dangerous" start slow and quiet and erupt into sonic fury -- an old Mogwai trick. "Glasgow Mega Snake" and "We're No Here" should delight anyone who bought Young Team or Ten Rapid because they heard the joke that "Mogwai" was Scots for "Slint." But the band continues to get better at imbuing the quiet songs with equal drama.
This review originally appeared at Avoid Peril.
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