Zombies. Fucking zombies. There are few things that have assimilated as many cultural touchstones as the zombie phenomenon. They’ve taken movies, classic novels, video games, music and now they’ve taken beloved Scottish instrumentalists Mogwai with the group’s Les Revenants EP (As an aside, if anyone wishes to create a Gremlins zombie mash-up, I won’t complain). The EP, the group’s first release since 2009’s fantastic Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, probably won’t win any new fans for the group but is a neat little treat for longtime fans.
For a bit of context, Les Revenants is a collection of songs taken from the hit French zombie TV show of the same name. Mogwai’s music, and post-rock in general, is inherently cinematic and fits the visual format like a snug bug in a rug. The sounds are expansive and mighty, with thundering crescendos and great range of dynamics on display. Post-rock works in this regard as fantastic, sometimes subtle mood music that just begs to be included in film. What is impressive about the Les Revenants EP is the sheer expanse of the music being created with a simple guitar-bass-drums-keyboard set up. The band successfully manage to brew this incredibly overbearing sense of desolation and bleakness with a simple bassline and some well placed harmonics. As a soundtrack, the whole EP fits together quite nicely and, while it isn’t strong enough to convince me to watch the series, I can imagine it being one of the show’s more laudable elements.
As an actual release for the band though, it’s a pretty superfluous effort. Running at a very lean 12 minutes and featuring only four tracks, the piece has a kind of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ vibe. The music isn’t bad, but in the grand scheme of the band’s career it’s pretty standard fare. That’s not to say it’s poor – it is a really solid effort. The music owes more to the Explosions In The Sky school of post-rock than, say, And So I Watch You From Afar. The previously mentioned harmonics, that feature prominently on Soup and The Huts add a lovely dimension to the sound and the glockenspiel on This Messiah Needs Watching is wonderful; a good glock is always appreciated. The highlight of the whole EP is the opening track Wizard Motor, which fuses the sense of desolation and sorrow that permeates the album with a sweet underlying sense of joy and triumph. The songs, with the exception of Soup which sounds like a less developed version of The Huts, are intricate and work incredibly well.
In the end though, there is nothing truly exciting on the release but its workmanlike quality is still appreciated. It’s not the band’s best effort by a long shot (that honour still belongs to Young Team), but it is enjoyable and a nice little gift to long time fans. Will Murphy