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Mogwai – Rave Tapes


“Blur are shite.”

A simple, to the point, and even iconoclastic statement that Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite once saw fit to wear emblazoned upon his torso. While Damon Albarn & Co. may not be everyone’s cup of tea, what seems to have really stuck in the throat of the Glaswegian post-rocker was their laissez-faire irreverence that became a quintessential hallmark of the Brit-pop era. A bugbear that provides proof, if any is still required, that those in Mogwai view their craft as a fairly serious business. So, given that they could never be described as a particularly light-hearted collection of individuals, the idea that on their eighth studio album, Rave Tapes, the five-piece could have produced a record that generates a weightier sense of foreboding than anything in their much-vaunted back catalogue is one that should be viewed with a degree of suspicion.

And yet, so it proves as Mogwai, having spent the recent past providing the score for The Returned – a French horror featuring all manner of back from the dead unpleasantness –  have taken that cling-to-the-edge-of your-seat tension and infused it into their latest studio offering. If third track ‘Remurdered’ doesn’t give you nightmares then it will certainly provide them with a more than suitable soundtrack. Whilst managing to come closer than any of the other tracks here to channelling the eponymous rave, the idea that everything is soon to go very awry is never far removed.

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Similarly unsettling, albeit achieved in a differing fashion, is ‘Repelish’. Existing underneath a spoken word discourse that debates the satanic and subliminal messages contained in Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is hardly a precursor for levity, but the mood is hammered home by the ringing guitars. If there is ever a loss of momentum and deviation from theme, it comes with ‘Deesh’, a track that, while perhaps not meandering, at the very least seems determined to reach its intended destination without the aid of a map or GPS. It is a mere slight deviation on the album’s trajectory, however, acting as pre-cursor to a majestic three-track crescendo.

‘Blues Hour’, the album’s only track to contain sung vocals, is characterised by Braithwaite’s lugubrious delivery before swelling guitar work lifts the track skywards like a rising tide only to subside once more and be replaced by a lingering and haunting piano refrain. ‘No Medicine For Regret’ is a forceful beast that builds layer upon layer of drone-like repetition before it cascades towards conclusion while the hymnal overtones of ‘The Lord Is Out Of Control’ provide an opportunity to reflect upon the aural assault that one has just been subjected to.

Seventeen years in, Mogwai still show no signs of abating and here they have produced yet another enduring listen. In terms of a purely immersive experience that drags you from start to finish, Rave Tapes is comparable to the masterful Young Team whilst the likes of ‘Blues Hour’ and ‘Remurdered’ sit comfortably among the band’s finest moments. Jonathan Bradley