Glasgow-based post rock pioneers Mogwai, are no strangers to the world of soundtracks. They’ve previously released three soundtracks in the last ten years. The first was Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait in October 2006. Just a month later, Mogwai released the soundtrack to The Fountain in November 2006. After releasing two soundtracks in the space of two months, it was almost seven years passed before Mogwai released the soundtrack to Les Revenants in February 2013. It was released to critical acclaim, and was hailed as Mogwai’s the finest soundtrack of their career. That however, may be about to change, as Mogwai recently released their fourth soundtrack Atomic on Rock Action Records.
Last summer, Mogwai had provided the soundtrack Mark Cousins documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise. It was aired on BBC Four, and was a very personal memoir of growing up in the nuclear age. Using archive film, Mark Cousins constructed an impressionistic cinematic memoir of what was a harrowing time.
The Cold War was still dominating the news. America and the U.S.S.R. were at loggerheads, and the sabre-rattling continued into a second decade. For teenagers like Mark Cousins, it was a harrowing time. However, he public weren’t going to stand by and not have their say.
Suddenly, membership of C.N.D rocketed, and protest marches took place in cities across Britain. Placard wielding protesters marched to the tune of “band the bomb.” That became a rallying call as governments tried to reassure a terrified public.
The public service films that were meant to reassure the public, had the opposite effect. They seemed to make the fear even more real. Then on 26th April 1986, the world realised that it wasn’t just the nuclear war that they should fear.
That was the Chernobyl Disaster took place at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in Pripyat, Ukraine. A worried public watched on, as the news of a catastrophic nuclear accident and explosion emerged. Then came the news that a fire resulted in a large quantity of radioactive particles escaping into the atmosphere. To make matters worse, they weren’t just heading which spread over much of the U.S.S.R., but Western Europe. When these particles landed in parts of Scotland, where Mogwai were growing up, suddenly, the Atomic Age seemed a very frightening time to grow up.
By then, Mark Cousins had discovered physics, and was discovering he advantages of Atomic Age. X-Rays and MRI scans he discovered were just two of the advantages of the Atomic Age. The subject that had once frightened Mark Cousins, now excited and interested him. So much, that he considered studying physics at university. That did’t happen, but later when Mark Cousins was a filmmaker, he decided to revisit the subject.
The result was his documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise. To provide the soundtrack, post rock pioneers were commissioned to write the soundtrack. It was the perfect backdrop to Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, which was a personal and poignant cinematic memoir. However, after the documentary was aired in the summer of 2015, Mogwai decided to rerecord the whole of the Atomic soundtrack.
At their Castle Of Doom Studios in Glasgow, Mogwai were joined be an old friend, occasional band member Luke Sutherland. Mogwai were also joined by Robin Proper-Sheppard formally of The God Machine and Glasgow composer Robert Newth. Together, they got to work on on Atomic, which was Mogwai’s twelfth album since they formed back in 1995.
That’s when Stuart Braithwaite and Dominic Aitchison first met in Glasgow. Four years later, they met drummer Martin Bulloch and formed Mogwai, which film buffs will remember, is a character from the movie Gremlins. Mogwai was always meant as a temporary name, but it stuck and was on the label of Tuner, their 1996 debut single.
Tuner was released to critical acclaim and the NME awarded it their single of the week award. Two other singles were released during 1996 Angels v. Aliens and Summer. By then Mogwai were a quartet.
Guitarist John Cummings joined the band in 1995. He’s also something of a maestro when it comes to all things technical and is described as playing “guitar and laptop.” He was part of one of the hottest bands of the late nineties, Mogwai who released two more singles in 1997.
The first of these was New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1 . It showed Mogwai growing and maturing as a band. NME agreed, and just like their debut single Tuner, New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1 was won NME’s single of the week award. Club Beatroot the followup to was also well received by critics. This was the perfect time for Mogwai to record their debut album, Mogwai Young Team.
Mogwai Young Team.
For Mogwai Young Team, Mogwai brought onboard Brendan O’Hare the Teenage Fanclub’s drummer. Another guest artist was Aidan Moffat of Falkirk based band Arab Strap. He added the vocal to R U Still In 2 It. The rest of Mogwai Young Team consisted of instrumentals. Mogwai Young Team was recorded at Chem 19 studios and produced by two of Scotland’s top producers, ex-Delgado Paul Savage and Andy Miller. Once Mogwai Young Team was completed, it was then released on Scotland’s biggest record label, Chemikal Underground.
Before its release, critics were one over by Mogwai Young Team. Mogwai were hailed Mogwai as a band with a big future. Mogwai Young Team was a hailed as a groundbreaking album of post-rock. It’s just one reason critics forecast a big future for Mogwai.
That proved to be a perceptive forecast. When Mogwai Young Team was released on 21st October 1997, sold over 30,000 copies and reached number seventy-five in the UK. The Mogwai Young Team were on their way. However, a few changes were about to take place.
Come On Die Young.
A year later, Mogwai were back in the studio recording their sophomore album Come On Die Young. Much had changed. A new member had joined the band. Barry Buns a flautist and sometimes pianist, had played a few gigs with the band. They then asked him to become the fifth member of Mogwai. Violinst Luke Sutherland joined Mogwai, but not on a full-time basis. This wasn’t the only change.
Recording was split between New York and Glasgow. This time, they’d forsaken Chem 19 in Blantyre and recorded parts of the album in Rarbox Road Studios, New York. Some sessions took place in Glasgow’s Cava Studios. Producing Come On Die Young was Dave Fridman. For some critics, his addition changed Mogwai’s sound.
Some critics felt his production style resulted in a much more orthodox sounding album. However Come On Die You was part of Mogwai discovering their “sound” and direction. Come On Die Young is a much more understated, but also ambient, experimental, multi-textured and melodic. There’s a fusion of ambient, grunge and post rock on Come On Die Young, which was released in 29th March 1999.
On its release, Come On Die Young reached number twenty-nine in the UK. Mogwai it seemed were now on their way to finding their sound and fulfilling the potential evident on their debut album. This was apparent with tracks of the quality of CODY, Hugh Dallas and Christmas Steps. However, like all innovative bands, Mogwai continued to reinvent their music.
This proved to the case on their eponymous E.P. This included Stanley Kubrick, which was recorded in the exotic surroundings of Cowdenbeath in Fife. Burn Girl Prom Queen was recorded at Cava Studios, in Mogwai’s hometown of Glasgow. These two tracks were part of E.P., which further enhanced Mogwai’s reputation as post rock pioneers. So did their third album Rock Action.
Mogwai’s music continued to evolve on their third album 2001s Rock Action. More use was made of electronics on Rock Action. This was part of a process that would continue over the next few albums. There were even more layers and textures on Rock Action. It was as if Mogwai had expanded their palette. Seven of the songs were instrumentals, while Dial Revenge featured Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals.
Again, Rock Action was produced by Dave Fridman, while recording took place in New York and at Glasgow’s Cava Studios. Once Rock Action was completed, it became Mogwai’s first album to be released on Play It Again Sam.
Rock Action was released in April 2001, and proved to be Mogwai’s most successful album. It reached number twenty-three in the UK. Critics remarked upon how Rock Action wasn’t as dark an album as its predecessors. That didn’t mean that Mogwai’s view of the world had changed. They were still worldweary. That would become a Mogwai trademark.
Six months after the release of Rock Action, Mogwai returned with another single, The My Father My King. It was released in October 2001, and was described “as the companion piece to Rock Action.” A sticker on the cover bore Mogwai’s description of the single as: “two parts serenity and one part death metal.” That was about to change. Soon, they’d be happy people writing happy songs and making a breakthrough into the American market.
Happy Songs For Happy People.
Happy Songs For Happy People was released in 2003. Mogwai’s evolution continued. Their music continued further down the electronic road. Yes, electric guitars and a drummer were used, but synths were playing a more important role in Mogwai’s music. So were the addition of strings and a piano. They played their part in what was a much more understated album. Part of this change in style was a change of producer.
Tony Doogan was brought onboard as producer. He replaced Dave Fridman. Gone were transatlantic recording sessions. Happy Songs For Happy People was recorded at Cava Sound Studios, Glasgow. On its release in June 2003, Happy Songs For Happy People was well received by critics. Critics drew attention to I Know You Are But What Am I? and Hunted By A Freak. The critics welcomed Mogwai’s latest change in style. So did record buyers.
While Happy Songs For Happy People only reached number forty-seven in the UK, it spent a week in the American charts, reaching number 182 in the US Billboard 200. After four albums, Mogwai had broken into the American market. Happy Songs For Happy People it seemed, was a landmark album.
Having made inroads into the lucrative American market, Mogwai didn’t rush their fifth album. It was released three years after Happy Songs For Happy People. There’s a reason for this. They were working on tree separate projects.
The first was their fifth album Mr. Beast. Then there was the first soundtrack they’d written and recorded. This was for the 2006 movie Zidane: A 21st Century Soundtrack. Mogwai also collaborated with Clint Mansell on the soundtrack to The Fountain. Although soundtracks were a nice sideline for Mogwai, their fifth album Mr. Beast was of huge importance. Especially, if it was a commercial success in America.
Recording of Mr. Beast took place at Mogwai’s new studio, Castle Of Doom Studios in Glasgow. Co-producing Mr.Beast with Mogwai, was Tony Doogan. Between April and October 2005, Mogwai honed their fifth album. Tony Doogan and Mogwai co-produced Mr. Beast. After six months, Mr. Beast was complete. It was Mogwai’s most important album.
Everyone realised the importance of Mr. Beast. Mogwai were on a verge of breaking into the American market. Happy Songs for Happy People had got Mogwai’s foot in the door. Now was the time for the Mogwai Young Team to kick it in, and make their presence felt. That’s what Mogwai intended to do with tracks like Travel Is Dangerous,Friend Of The Night and We’re No Here. They featured Mogwai at their best. This trio of tracks would please critics.
On its release, it was mostly, to critical acclaim. Critics were fascinated at how Mogwai’s music continued to evolve. For Mogwai, standing still was going backwards. Groundbreaking music was what record buyers expected from Mogwai.
When Mr. Beast was released on 5th March 2006, record buyers found an album of innovative music. It climbed thirty-one in the UK. Across the Atlantic, Mr. Beast reached number 128 in the US Billboard 200. Mogwai were now one of Scotland’s most successful musical exports. They were certainly Scotland’s most innovative band. This was a title they weren’t going to give up without a fight.
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.
Following the release of Mr. Beast, the other two projects that Mogwai had been working on, were released. The first was Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. The project came about in late 2005, when artist Douglas Gordon asked Mogwai to write and record a soundtrack to a film he was making about Zinedine Zidane, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Mogwai agreed, and this gave them their entry into the world of soundtracks.
Maogwai grasped this opportunity. They recorded Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait at Castle Of Doom Studios. At first hand, Mogwai had recorded ten tracks, which were produced by Tony Doogan. However, when the soundtrack was released, it came baring a secret.
That’s the hidden track Untitled, a twenty-three minute epic, featuring Mogwai at their most inventive. That was the case throughout Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. Most critics realised this. A few, however, didn’t seem to ‘get’ Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. However, the critics that mattered, gave Mogwai the recognition they deserved when Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait was released on 30th October 2006. Then less than a month later, the soundtrack to The Fountain was released on 27th November 2006.
The Fountain was a collaboration between contemporary classic composer Clint Mansell, string quartet the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai. To some onlookers, it looked like an unlikely collaboration. That wasn’t the case though.
Mogwai had spent December 2005 locked away in their Castle Of Doom Studios with producer Tony Doogan. Other parts of The Fountain project were recorded in New York and Los Angeles. Then once the project was complete, The Fountain was released on 27th November 2006.
When The Fountain soundtrack was released, the reviews were positive. Mogwai’s contribution to the soundtrack had proved vital, while the Kronos Quartet proved a perfect foil the Mogwai Young Team. Mogwai’s lasted soundtrack had enhanced their reputation as the go-to guys for a soundtrack. That would their sideline in the future. However, before they released another soundtrack, Mogwai would release another two albums.
The Hawk Is Howling.
The first of these was The Hawk Is Howling. To ensure they kept their title of Scotland’s most innovative bands, Mogwai returned to the studio where it all began, Chem 19 in Blantyre.
Andy Miller who’d co-produced Mogwai Young Team, Mogwai’s debut album was chosen to produce what became The Hawk Is Howling. This was Mogwai’s sixth album and marked a first. It was Mogwai’s first album to consist of just instrumentals. Among them were I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead, The Sun Smells Too Loud, Batcat and Scotland’s Shame. They feature the post rock pioneers pushing musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond. Once The Hawk Is Howling was recorded, Garth Jones mixed the album at Castle Of Doom Studios in Glasgow. After that, The Hawk Is Howling was ready for release.
The Hawk Is Howling was released on 22nd September 2008. Critics were won over by The Hawk Is Howling. There were no dissenting voices. This was one of Mogwai’s best albums. So, it was no surprise it sold well in the UK and America.
On its release, The Hawk Is Howling reached number thirty-five in the UK and number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 200. It seemed with each album, Mogwai’s music evolved and matured. This resulted in even more success coming their way. Would this continue with Hardcore Will Never Die?
Hardcore Will Never Die.
For their seventh album, Mogwai returned to Chem 19 Studios in Blantyre, where they hooked up with ex-Delgado Paul Savage. Since he’d produced Mogwai’s debut album, Mogwai Young Team Paul had established a reputation as one of Scotland’s best producers.
By then, Paul Savage had worked with everyone from Franz Ferdinand to R.M. Hubbert. However, it was a very different Mogwai Paul encountered. They were very different to the band who recorded Mogwai Young Team Paul. Their music had evolved and was continuing to do so. They’d matured as musicians and embraced the new technology. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will was proof of this.
Here was an album of groundbreaking, genre-melting post-rock with attitude. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will was also an album not short on humour. Poppy soulster Lionel Ritchie provided the inspiration for You’re Lionel Ritchine. There was also a celebratory sound to Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. It’s a reminder of an album of pioneering, post rock music crammed full of hooks, humour and attitude. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will was an album that couldn’t fail.
Before the release of Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Rano Pano was released as a single. On the flip side was Hasenheide, which didn’t feature on Hardcore Will Never Die. It was a reminder that Mogwai’s B-Sides are better than most band’s singles. Things it seemed were looking good for Mogwai.
Yet again, Mogwai won over the majority of critics with Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. A couple of contrarian critics proved to be mere dissenting voices in the wilderness. Most critics realised that Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will was one of Mogwai’s finest hours. Record buyers would agree.
Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will reached number thirty-five in the UK and number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 200. For Mogwai, they were now into their third decade as band and had just enjoyed their biggest album to date. What next?
The answer to that was Les Revenants, a soundtrack to a French television series. Les Revenants or The Returned is essentially a television program about zombies. Unlike similar programs, when the “undead” return to the town they lived in, it’s as they were, not how most films portray zombies. Another difference was the way Mogwai were commissioned.
Usually, someone writing a soundtrack can see the film they’re writing music to. Not Mogwai. They were just shown a few scripts. Then they were given an overview of what the series was about. From there, Mogwai wrote thirteen of the fourteen tracks. The other track they chose was What Are They Doing In Heaven Today, which was written by Charles Elbert Tilney. These fourteen tracks were recorded by Mogwai, who produced Les Revenants with Neil MacMenamin. Once Les Revenants was finished, it was released in February 2013.
Before Les Revenants was released an E.P. was released. It featured four tracks. That was a tantalising taster of what was to come. After all, Mogwai would approach a soundtrack like Les Revenants in a different manner. They wouldn’t do anything predictable. Les Revenants was a case of expect the unexpected. Critics loved Les Revenants and hailed the album as one of the best albums Mogwai had released. However, Mogwai had other ideas.
Rave Tapes features ten tracks which were written by Mogwai. These tracks were recorded at Mogwai’s Castle Of Doom Studios, in 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 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, which was released on 20th January 2014.
Rave Tapes was one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. 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 on Remurdered, The Lord Is Out Of Control and Tell Everyone I Love Them, which all feature on the Central Belters’ box set. However, one of the most prominent influences on Rave 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, their most recent album.
After the release of Rave Tapes, Mogwai released Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry E.P. on 1st of December 2014. Opening this six track E.P. is one of its highlights, Teenage Exorcists. So fittingly, it finds its way onto Mogwai’s three disc retrospective box set, Central Belters.
For anyone yet to discover the delights of of post rock pioneers Mogwai, then the Central Belters’ box set is the perfect starting place. It was recently released on Rock Action Records, and costs no more than an individual CD. It’s Mogwai’s way of thanking their loyal fans who have supported them over the last twenty years. And what a roller coaster it’s been.
Since they formed in 1995, Mogwai have released eight albums and three soundtracks. Then there’s countless singles, E.P.s and two remix albums. Mogwai must be one of the hardest working bands in music. That’s not forgetting one of the most innovative.
For the last twenty years, Mogwai’s music has been ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative music. It’s full of nuances, subtleties and surprises as Mogwai seamlessly combine musical genres. They fuse ambient, avant garde, classic rock, electronica, experimental, indie rock, psychedelia and Krautrock, to create their unique post rock sound. All the time, Mogwai continue to push musical boundaries to their limits and even sometimes, way beyond. This becomes apparent on Atomic.
Having made the decision to rerecord Atomic, Mogwai headed to their Castle Of Doom Studios in Glasgow, Mogwai were joined be an old friend, and occasional band member Luke Sutherland. Other guests included Robin Proper-Sheppard formally of The God Machine; and Glasgow composer Robert Newth. Together, they got to work on on Atomic,
At Castle Of Doom Studios, Mogwai and friends got to work. Mogwai’s rhythm section featured drummer Martin Bulloch; bassist and guitarist Dominic Aitchison; and guitarists Stuart Braithwaite and John Cummings who also played piano. Barry Burns played organ, piano and guitar. Occasional member of Mogwai, Luke Sutherland played violin on Are You A Dancer? Robin Newth adds French Horn on Ether; while Robin Proper-Sheppard added guitar on Tzar. Just like previous albums, Tony Doogan took charge of production on Atomic. Once the ten tracks were complete, Atomic was scheduled for release in the spring of 2016.
Given the sombre nature of parts of Mark Cousins’ documentary, there was a degree of irony that Atomic was released on April Fool’s Day. By the time, 1st of April 2016 came around, the reviews of Atomic had surpassed Les Revenants. Critics hailed Atomic Mogwai’s finest soundtrack album. It was a welcome return for Glasgow’s famous five, as they returned with their first studio album in three years…Atomic.
Ominous describes the introduction to Ether. Washes of synths draw closer, before drones sound ominously and a guitar is picked carefully. Then suddenly, ethereal keyboards play and a melancholy French horn punctuates the arrangement. Along with a piano, they provide a thoughtful backdrop. As swells of synths are added, so does the drama and sense of melancholia. It’s as if there’s a yearning for a simpler time, before the Atomic age. Later, synth strings sweep, and the French horn sounds as the rhythm section continue to add to the drama and melancholia. In doing so, they add to what’s a ruminative, dramatic and beautiful cinematic track.
As Scram unfolds, Mogwai pay homage to Kraftwerk, especially Radioactivity. Soon, however, Mogwai are replicating the sound of the man machine. It chatters, buzzes, crackles and chimes almost hypnotically; as drum machines that click and crack. In the midst of the arrangement, there’s what sounds like a warning. No wonder Mogwai advise people to Scram. The man machine has malfunctioned, and the wistful sound of a synth string is joined by buzzing, pulsating synths. Mesmeric and hypnotic the cogs in the machine grind and whine, their sound menacing as they lumber along.
Dramatic is the word that springs to mind as Bitterness Centrifuge gradually shares its secrets. It’s reminiscent of an Eastern European recording from the late-seventies or early eighties. The arrangement is slow, with ominous, gothic synths and dramatic drums combining. They lumber, as fuzzy guitars feedback and join synth that briefly, sound almost ethereal. Mostly, though dramatic, post apocalyptic sound to the arrangement.
It seems fitting that on an album entitled Atomic, Mogwai name a track U-235, which is an isotope of uranium. As the track unfolds, a buzzing bass synth taps out a code. It’s joined by washes of ethereal synths, a keyboard and drum machine. Together, they create another track that references Kraftwerk. As washes of of ethereal, haunting synths sweep in and out, a melodic keyboard joins the bass synth. All the time, the drum machine provides the heartbeat. That’s until later, when the arrangement is stripped bare. All that’s left are the sweeping synths. They create an ethereal, melodic and memorable backdrop
The name Pripyat may not mean much to most people. Chernobyl however, strikes fear into the heart of millions. Pripyat was the town where the Chernobyl Power Plant was situated, and where on 26th April 1986 a catastrophic nuclear accident took place. Given the backstory, it’s no wonder that Mogwai create an arrangement that’s not just big and bold, but dark, dramatic and gothic. It’s as if Mogwai are building up to the moment when the unthinkable happened. From there, they recreate the despair and heartbreak, as a once proud place becomes a desolate and barren, no-go area whose name thirty years later, is remembered with sadness.
In the distance, keyboards are played with a degree of urgency on Weak Force. Continually, they play the same chords, that sweep in and out, in and out. They grown in volume, power and drama. It’s as if they’re sending out a warning. Especially as differenet keyboards combine, and a dark, ominous sound emerges from the arrangement. Combined with the mesmeric, nature of the arrangement, this adds to the cinematic sound. Despite the darkness and drama, Mogwai still manage to create a melodic and is certainly memorable. It wouldn’t sound out of place in a blockbuster, instead of a television documentary.
In Mark Cousins’ documentary, Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, Little Boy takes the listener back to when the filmmaker was growing up. It was at the height of the Cold War, with fingers never far from the big red button. For young Mark Cousins, it was the stuff of nightmares. That’s why the arrangemement is slow, moody and broody, with droning synths sitting atop the rhythm section and keyboards. It’s as if the drones are sirens warning of impending doom. Scorching guitar solos cut through the arrangement, as synths add to an arrangement that veers between dramatic, thoughtful and even hopeful. It’s as if Mogwai are providing the soundtrack to Mark Cousins nightmares and hopes, as he eventually discovers the positive effects of the Atomic age.
Straight away, Are You a Dancer? sounds like the soundtrack to a Cold War spy thriller. Mogwai conjur up images of Berlin, with spooks passing secrets in what was a game of bluff and double bluff. Drums are caressed, as a bass is plucked carefully and a Hammond organ adds to the atmospheric backdrop. Washes of shimmering guitar reverberate, while hypnotic perucsion joins Luke Sutherland’s haunting violin. By then, Mogwai are creating what’s without a beautiful, haunting and lysergic soundscape. It’s reminsicnent of David Lynch’s cinematic epics, albeit made by six guys from Glasgow,
Whirring, buzzing synths cut through the arrangement to Tzar. They’re soon joined by drums that have been panned left and right, and assail the listener. Meanwhile, stabs and swells of jangling, chiming keyboards play. Still, the synths buzz and whir. Gradually, instrumenets are added. Etheral synths are soon joined by blistering, screaming post rock guitar and a bounding bass. The bass is way back in the mix, while the guitars join the sythns in playing a leading role in the post rock anthem. With a minute to go, the arrangement has reached its crescendo, and begins to slow down. Instruments begin to drop out, as the arrangement is stripped bare. Eventually, all that’s left is a memory of Mogwai in their post rock prime.
Fat Man closes Atomic. Just a pulsating heartbeat can be heard, before a melancholy piano plays. Togther they create a wistful soundscape, Mideway throuhg the track, the arrangement grows in drama and power. Swells of synth and a guitar join the piano as the soundscape reaches a crescendo. Then Mogwai slow things down, and the arrangement features just the occasional beep and squeak that join the piano and pulsating heartbeat. Later, space is left as the piano plays. It’s like a pregnant pause, allowing the pulsating heartbeat to take centre-stage. As this happens, the listener can reflect on the themes explored in Mark Cousins’ documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise.
Mogwai’s twleth album Atomic, is best described as a cinematic Magnus Opus. It’s an album of ambitious, bold, challenging, influential and innovative music. This is music full of nuances, subtleties and surprises. During ten tracksm the mood constantly shifts. One minute, the music is wistful and melancholy, the next pensive and thoughtful, and then dark, disturbing, eerie and moody. That’s not surprising given the subject matter of Mark Cousins’ documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise.
It documents a period in time, when people on both sides of the Iron Curtain lived with a fear that the sabre rattling, would result in a nuclear war. This fear was like a dark cloud that blighted people’s lives, including Mark Cousins. The word Atomic caused him nighmares as he grewup in the seventies. However, this wasn’t just a period of darkness for Mark Cousins.
In the late seventies, Mark Cousins discovered physics, which helped him conquer his fear of the Atomic age. Soon, Mark Cousins discovered that there was a positive side to Atomic age. X-rays and MRI scans he was told had changed lives. That’s why sometimes, the music on Atomic is sometimes, beautiful and melancholy. It tugs at the listener’s heartstrings and poses questions. Constantly, the music paints pictures of the Atomic age in the seventies and eighties. This can’t have been an easy project.
Far from it. Setting out to create the soundtrack to Mark Cousins’ documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise wasn’t going to be easy. It was an ambitious and challenging project. That’s why Mark Cousins brought onboard one of the most influential and innovative bands in Britain…Mogwai. They take the listener on a genre-hopping musical journey.
On Atomic’s ten tracks Mogwai combine everything from avant-garde and Berlin School to electronica and experimental via indie-rock, Krautrock and post-rock to psychedelia. This results in a genre-melting, cinematic album, Atomic, which was recently released by Rock Action Records. Atomic is a mesmeric fusion that captivates and compels. The listener is taken on a musical journey, one that veers between dramatic and dreamy, to surreal and trippy, to beautiful, pensive and understated to melancholy and melodic. Other times the music is dramatic, moody and broody. One thing the music never is, is boring. Not at all. Certainly not with Mogwai providing the soundtrack to Atomic.
Subtleties and surprises are contantly sprung. Mogwai certainly aren’t afraid of changing direction. Using the musical equivalent of a handbrake turn, the Mogwai Young Team perform a volte face. That’s what makes Atomic such a captivating and groundbreaking soundtrack from Glasgow’s famous five…Mogwai.
Atomic is the first soundtrack that Mogwai have released since Les Revenants in 2013. It was regarded as Mogwai’s finest soundtrack. Not any more. Somehow, Mogwai have surpassed the quality of Les Revenants on Atomic. Each of the ten tracks have a story to tell. These stories are chapters in Mark Cousins journey as a child of the Cold War. However, unlike many soundtracks, Atomic works as a standalone album.
So much so, that Mogwai have decided to tour Atomic. This is yet another ambitious project from the post rock pioneers. Replicating the sound of Atomic won’t be easy. However, Mogwai like a challenge, and if anyone can replicate an album as complex as Atomic live, it’s Mogwai. They’ll so, later in 2016.
So much so, that Mogwai have decided to tour Atomic. This is yet another ambitious project from the post rock pioneers. Replicating the sound of Atomic won’t be easy. However, Mogwai like a challenge, and if anyone can replicate an album as complex as Atomic live, it’s Mogwai. They’ll do so, later in 2016.
Mogwai leave will leave their Castle Of Doom Studios in May 2016, as they embark upon their latest musical adventure. For the next three months, Mogwai will tour Europe and Japan showcasing their latest groundbreaking album of cinematic post rock, Atomic.
- Posted in: Avant Garde ♦ Krautrock ♦ Psychedelia ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Atomic, Central Belters, Come On Die Young, Happy Songs For Happy People, Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, Les Revenants, Mogwai, Mogwai Young Team, Mr. Beast, Rave Tapes, Rock Action, Rock Action Records, The Fountain, The Hawk Is Howling, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait