With the Scottish Album Of The Year Award looming, the big question in Scottish music is, who are the contenders? This year, we’re spoiled for choice. It’s been a vintage year, or to be a accurate, fifteen month period. There’s a reason for this. The three-month extension of the eligibility window for the Scottish Album Of The Year Award 2015 will allow the qualifying period for future awards to run from April to March. This aligns the qualifying period more closely with the prestigious and glittering award ceremony in June. It’ll be attended by the great and good of Scottish music. This should include Mogwai, who released Rave Tapes back on 20th January 2014.
Rave Tapes features ten tracks, which were written by Mogwai. Recording took place at Castle Of Doom Studios, Glasgow. Producing Rave Tapes was ex-Delgado Paul Savage. He’s produced previous Mogwai albums and knew how the band worked. This was important, given Mogwai were at last, enjoying the critical acclaim and commercial success their music deserved. Work began on Rave Tapes back on the 28th August 2013.
This was like the first day back at school. Mogwai were ready to begin recording what was their eighth studio album. The lineup of Mogwai has been settled for a few years. This included a rhythm section of bassist and guitarist Dominic Aitchison, drummer Martin Bulloch and guitarists Stuart Braithwaite and John Cummings who also played piano. Barry Burns plays organ, piano and guitar at Castle Of Doom Studios, Glasgow, Mogwai recorded the ten tracks that became Rave Tapes.
Rave Tapes was one of the most anticipated albums of recent months. The big question was, what direction Mogwai’s music would head? After all, Mogwai’s music never stands still. It’s in a constant state of evolution. That’s no bad thing. Standing still is akin to going backwards in Mogwai’s book. On Rave Tapes, Mogwai’s music continues to evolve. Musical genres and influences melt into one. One of the most prominent influences was Krautrock. Add to this ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, indie rock and rock. We hear different sides to Mogwai on Rave Tapes. Whether it’s fuzzy soundscapes or kicking out the jams, Mogwai don’t disappoint on Rave Tapes, which I’ll tell you about.
Heard About You Last Night opens Rave Tapes. It has an ambient sound, with keyboards and broody bass prowling along. The keyboards remind me of a setting in Ableton 9. Then as the bass and keyboard meander along, sneering guitars take centre-stage. Along with the drums, this transforms the track. Post rock, ambient and indie combine. Guitars reverberate, washes of synths sweep in and the bass pulsates, as the drama grows and builds. After reaching a crescendo, the arrangement takes on an understated sound as Mogwai settle into a groove. They’ve picked up where they left off on Les Revenants, by producing music that’s variously atmospheric, dramatic and ethereal.
Simon Ferocious sees a change in style. It’s best described as a fusion of post rock, electronica and Krautrock. Buzzing synths, pounding rhythm section and chiming, snarling guitars combine. The synths are at the heart of the arrangement, while everything revolves around them. Mogwai dig deep, drawing inspiration from Can, Harmonia, Neu and Kraftwerk. There’s also a nod to classic sixties and seventies rock when Mogwai kick loose on this genre-melting track. Mogwai are inspired by the music of the past, to create the music of the future
Remurdered is a track that gradually reveals its secrets. Mogwai throw a few curveballs in the process. An understated ethereal synth and pulsating bass are joined by keyboards before it’s all change. Having built up the drama, Mogwai take the track in the direction of post rock. There’s still a Krautrock influence in the groove. A combination of blistering post rock guitars and Krautrock drums and synths prove a potent combination. Especially with the electro influence. It gives the track an early eighties New York sound. That’s before Mogwai kick out the jams as they showcase their versatility and ability to constantly innovate and reinvent themselves and their music.
Briefly, Hexon Bogon has a nineties guitar sound. That’s before Mowai join forces and jam. Their rhythm section are at the heart of the track’s success. They’re augmented by keyboards and drive the arrangement along, fusing classic rock and post rock. It’s a glorious combination. Mogwai prove their doubters wrong by proving they were born to rock.
Repelish is one of the most captivating tracks on Rave Tapes. Against a moody, broody and eerie backdrop a speech by the Reverend Lee Cohen is played. This is the perfect foil for the dramatic backdrop of washes of synths, drums and guitars. They play their part in a haunting, menacing and dramatic soundscape which finds Mogwai experimenting and pushing musical boundaries.
Master Card is four minutes of swaggering rock. It’s as if Mogwai are paying their own unique homage to groups like the New York Dolls and Led Zeppelin. However, they’re doing it their way. Blistering, sneering guitar solos, washes of Krautrock synths and pounding drums combine. Later, machine guitars are unleashed. All the time, synths add drama and darkness. Right up until the track reaches its dramatic and rocktastic crescendo.
Deesh sees the tempo drop and Mogwai combine post rock, electronica and Krautrock. Driven along by the hypnotic rhythm section, banks of keyboards add drama and darkness. They’re aided and abetted by blistering guitars. This results in a soundscape that’s variously dark and dramatic, but also hypnotic, mesmeric and sometimes, ethereal.
Blues Hour has a mysterious, understated introduction. You wonder which direction it’s heading? What follows is a beautiful, wistful soundscape. Just a lone piano and acoustic guitar accompany Stuart’s vocal. It’s melancholy and accompanied by harmonies as the arrangement grows. Having reached a crescendo, the understated sound returns. This results in a wistful, melancholy fusion of ambient, electronica and post rock.
No Medicine For Regret has a Neo Gothic introduction. Played on an organ, this not only is dramatic but grabs your attention. Having gotten your attention, Mogwai don’t let go. Guitars, keyboard and rhythm section play their part in this track’s dramatic, cinematic sound.
Closing Rave Tapes is The Lord Is Out Of Control. Keyboards and guitars combine before a vocoder makes its entrance. This is really effective. In the wrong hands, i.e. Daft Punk, a vocoder can be annoying. Used properly and sparingly it can transform a track. Here, it adds drama and body to this soundscape. It’s a vital part of Mogwai’s futuristic orchestral sound. Just like so many tracks on Rave Tapes this reinforces that Mogwai are still one of the most innovative bands in music.
Rave Tapes is best described as a groundbreaking, genre-melting musical journey from Mogwai. They’ve been together for nineteen years and still, are creating music that’s influential, innovative and inventive. This is what they’ve been doing since 1997, when they released their debut album Mogwai Young Team. Sixteen years later, Mowai are still striving to reinvent their music. They’re not content to stand still. After all, what would the fun in that that be? Mogwai leave that to stadium rock groups and has-been remixers. They’re not the future. Mowai are. Why?
Well, Mogwai have just released Rave Tapes, another album of ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative music. This is music full of nuances, subtleties and surprises. During a ten track journey through ambient, avant garde, classic rock, electronica, experimental, indie rock and Krautrock, Mogwai push musical boundaries to their limits and beyond. During these ten tracks, the music constantly changes. You never know what’s about to happen. The only thing you can expect, is the unexpected. That’s no bad thing though. After all, we’d be complaining if Rave Tapes was full of predictable music. It’s not. Far from it.
Throughout Rave Tapes, Mowai’s music constantly changes. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it’s the same band. The music veers between wistful, melancholy and pensive, to dark, dramatic and disturbing. It’s also eerie and moody. Sometimes, it’s beautiful and melancholy. The music on Rave Tapes is always ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative as Mogwai take you on a genre-hopping musical journey that is Rave Tapes. It was released on Rock Action Records on 20th January 2014 and is a must have album, which is sure to be a contender for 2015s Scottish Album Of The Year Award.