Mogwai – Rave Tapes

Rave TapesMogwai aren’t a band you associate with the word ‘rave’, at least in the traditional sense. Unless the venue is a bunker in the Highlands, with attendees dancing at a greater level of tonal Zen than you or I, they have always been a band to make most sense on stage. Yet Rave Tapes is hardly a hindrance of a title for the eighth album by this please-don’t-label-them-a post-rock Glaswegian five piece, who all rise beyond their cap like an eternally maturing wine, pouring out new flights of fancy rich in experimentation.

Like the best from these guys, the opening track of Rave Tapes - “Heard about You Last Night” - recreates the elusive vibe of a musical jam, upon which everyone has decided to roll onto. Even though it’s played with the same raw, on the spot pace of a demo, the finalized work of The Delgados drummer and mighty Scottish producer Paul Savage means it sounds like nothing less than a master.

It’s interesting that even though the band were on their own leash for last year’s highly lauded Les Revenants soundtrack, the change in reins hasn’t meant that all that newfound love for slowly creeping, brooding noise has been dashed away from Rave Tapes. “Deesh”, “Remurdered” and “Simon Ferocious” - the latter of which even shares the name of one of the characters from the French TV drama - rely more on the tense sound of alien electronics than the inevitable loud noise, and provide a dosage of the different.

Ramping the volume of Rave Tapes up is highly advised for “Hexon Bogon” and “The Lord Is out of Control”, which smash symbol and synth respectively in the band’s signature, chaotic formula. It’s the sound we’ve been hearing for years, sure, but it’s like a signature scratched into the track, just for you. Speaking of the subliminal, the usual void vacant of lyricism is filled in “Repelish” by the mad theories of a conspiracy theorist, out to save us from the satanic danger of “Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven”. One would assume this is archive audio, but it appears to have been narrated specifically for Rave Tapes, which, with such sombre guitar, imply many layers of meaning (remember “Mogwai Fear Satan” according to their 1997 album Young Team? Read the signs people!).

Near the record’s end, “Blues Hour” grants the rare Mogwai joy of both piano by Barry Burns and clean vocals by Stuart Braithwaite. Whilst the band’s near exclusive instrumentals have shown us how to elevate rock music by taking out the assumed essential of singing, the reintroduction of such tender notes and words make this number the finest in the setlist. Wait until you can piece it with last track “The Lord Is Out of Control”’s ill-communicated vocoder, and recall an admiration for these musicians, who even after 19 years can still supersede their own lack of high expectation.

Release: 20th January 2014, Sub Pop

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