Archive for the ‘Mogwai’ Tag

Album: Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

It’s more than a little clichéd to refer to post-rock as “epic” or “cinematic” but few adjectives better describe the near tangible presence of an Explosions in the Sky song. The Texas-based four-piece seem to have a copyright over the sound of marching snare rolls set against delicate layering of guitar. Their range has shown little divergence since 2000’s How Strange, Innocence but this lack of variety has done little to damage their popularity. You know what to expect from Explosions, it’ll be all crests and troughs building to a screeching climax. This predictability should render the music somewhat stale but the fact is they write damn good tunes, just ask any fan of Friday Night Lights.

Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is the bands first release since 2007’s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, and you get the feeling the niche to which they have limited themselves is finally getting a little cramped. It’s not that this six track LP lacks the quality of the previous five but for the first time there is a distinct feeling of deja entendu. When adhering to such a tight framework, there’s only so much re-arranging of sound and re-tuning of guitars that can be done.

Third track ‘Trembling Hands’ sticks out like a sore thumb as the “something new.” It’s  by a distance the shortest track, clocking just 3.31 and is the only offering of vocals on the album. Much like Mogwai’s recent voyage into unknown territory, this experiment takes away from an otherwise solid post-rock compilation. Almost as if in a rush to get back to what they do best, ‘Trembling Hands’ takes the established Explosions in the Sky blueprint and speeds it up with the questionable, or perhaps more accurately, unnecessary inclusion of vocals.

The other five tracks all work their magic in their own way. ‘Postcard From 1952′  takes two minutes to find its voice before coming to life in a celebration of guitars with the incessant crashing of cymbals. Album closer’ Let Me Back In’ grows more engaging with every listen while ‘Human Qualities’ playfully pokes and jabs before delivering a spectacular knockout punch. The stats read five tried and tested tunes to one experimental and five triumphs to one disappointment. Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is a consuming post-rock album but falls just short of the heights reached by The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place and All of  a Sudden I Miss Everyone, unlike those LP’s this one shows signs of a band confined to sound which is running low on room for creative expression.

 

 

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Album: Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will

Several acts can lay claim to a devoted cult following, with Mogwai it’s more like an army with separate factions. While it is almost universally accepted that the Glasgow outfit’s debut LP Young Team, released in 1997 is their best to date, subsequent releases have proved more than a bit divisive. Having stretched the boundaries of their post-rock sound over five other albums you got the feeling they were going to try something a little different this time round. While Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will takes the prize for best title so far, the album is the weakest to date.

Disappointingly it’s these ventures into pastures new that inspire the album’s downfall. Over the last 15 years Stuart Braithwaite and company have mastered both ends of the post-rock spectrum. From the haunting delicacy of tunes like Cody to the teeth-grinding roar of numbers such as Glasgow Mega Snake. Vitally however, every album had a clear direction, a coherence. HWNDBYW loses itself somewhere between the classic Mogwai sound and a fresh start. Guarding the two most experimental tracks “Mexican Grand Prix” and “George Square Thatcher Death Party” are tunes which would fit seamlessly into other Mogwai albums, the result however is an LP that lacks its own identity.

Effects-laden vocals and an electronic beat mark new territory in “Mexican Grand Prix”, falling somewhere in between Radiohead and Liars. The fancy new tricks will do little to engage new listeners or impress seasoned followers as the track lacks any edge or imagination. More frustratingly on “George Square Thatcher Death Party” the tiresome synth and irritating auto-tuned vocals interfere with a stomping guitar riff.

It shouldn’t go unmentioned that HWNDBYW has its high points, “Death Rays” showcases Mogwai’s expertise in blending the loud with the timid and “San Pedro” packs a real punch once it gets its act together half way through. The problem is that even the moments of inspiration seem out-of-place on the album and you can’t help thinking how much cosier theywould be in one of the previous offerings. Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will is not a bad album, it’s just not a great album and due to the standards they have set themselves, many people expect greatness. In the many factions of the Mogwai army, there will be very few flying the flag for this release.

Video: Mogwai – How To Be A Werewolf

What better way to kick-start 2011 than a new video from Glasgow’s finest export? Anthony Crook’s video appeared on Nowness in early December and represents the first single off Mogwai‘s upcoming EP gloriously entitled Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will. The absorbing cinematography captures the soundscapes over landscapes effect of the music which lacks Mogwai’s customary spine-tingling bleakness but is altogether lovely and how often do we get to call post-rock lovely, eh? They play Galway’s Roisin Dubh on Valentines Night and The Olympia on Tuesday the 15th of Feb.

Album: Solar Bears – She Was Coloured In

Ireland has long been rich in musical talent, what it has lacked is diversity. Having produced singer-songwriters on mass for years, we’ve recently seen a surge in successful post-rock/math-rock outfits. Making a name as a breeding ground for electronic artists however, has proved difficult for the Emerald Isle, until now. Solar BearsShe was Coloured In adds its name to the list of brilliant Irish electronic albums of 2010, alongside the works of Nouveaunoise and Shit Robot to name just two.

The Leinster based duo Solar Bears may not be a household name in Ireland yet, but they have certainly popped up the blogosphere radar, gaining international acclaim helped by their affiliation with English label Planet Mu. Another factor is the undeniably contemporary nature of their sound, even their eighties style synths have a modern glitchy feel. While She Was Coloured In adheres to what’s currently ‘hot’ in the indie community you get the feeling this is more by accident than design.

At no point throughout the 15 tracks does the music feel forced. It flows seamlessly, at its own pace and with no agenda in mind other than its own. Diversity of influence is abundantly apparent, by the fourth tracks we’ve encountered the minimal loops of Four Tet, the groovy funk of Daft Punk, the haunting percussion of Lorn and the patient probing bass of Mogwai, all served on a bed of wavy atmospheric synths. This album is a collection of tracks crying out for use in films, they carry the necessary impact without demanding all the attention.

Mogwai to Play in February

Very excited to hear post-rock giants Mogwai announce dates in Belfast, Galway and Dublin in early February. I’ve seen the Glasgow outfit twice before and can promise these gigs will leave your ears ringing for days, in a good way. Book early as tickets are sure to be snapped up quickly. They play Mandela Hall on the 13th, Galway’s Radisson Hotel the 14th and The Olympia theatre on the 15th.