Widescreen dreams

Scot­tish post rock band Mog­wai has stretched out its sonic am­bi­tions.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By ADRIAN YAP C.K. en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

SCoT­TISH post rock band Mog­wai has never been one to fol­low the rules. Formed in 1995 in Glas­gow, the quin­tet has con­sis­tently de­fied the odds and stayed sig­nif­i­cant in a ca­reer built on largely tex­tured in­stru­men­tal rock that’s un­der­pinned by lay­ers of brood­ing gui­tars.

Early al­bums from the 1990s like Young Team, Come On Die Young and the col­lec­tion record­ings Ten Rapid laid the foun­da­tion for the band’s icon­o­clas­tic bent and deeply at­mo­spheric mu­sic. That led to Mog­wai at­tract­ing an in­ter­na­tional fan­base and tak­ing on ma­jor fes­ti­vals around the world.

The group has rou­tinely been name-checked as one of the world’s best live bands. The lack of con­ven­tion has never deterred Mog­wai’s march to the bright lights.

In­ter­est­ingly, there was a ca­reer resur­gence with the Les Revenants al­bum last year. Writ­ten for a French TV se­ries, this sound­track brought a sub­tle shift to Mog­wai’s sonic land­scape.

Re­flect­ing an achingly beau­ti­ful calm and ref­er­enc­ing folk blues vi­sions, Mog­wai’s Les Revenants sounded a world apart from its sig­na­ture post rock dy­nam­ics.

over a phone in­ter­view from Glas­gow, re­cently, the band’s gui­tarist and vo­cal­ist Stuart Braith­waite, 37, was ea­ger to chat about its lat­est al­bum Rave Tapes.

This new al­bum, fea­tur­ing 10 songs, has a dis­tinc­tive nod to­wards elec­tron­ics. Is the al­bum ti­tle in­dica­tive of Mog­wai’s cur­rent and fu­ture mu­si­cal di­rec­tion?

Tak­ing a mo­ment to think, Braith­waite seems al­most be­mused by that ques­tion.

“Well, you cer­tainly can in­ter­pret it as that but no, there’s not a lot be­hind it,” he an­swered.

Given the band did name its last al­bum Hard­core Will Never Die, But You Will in 2011, Mog­wai has been rather cheeky with its re­cent al­bum ti­tles. There was no hard­core found on Hard­core Will Never Die, But You Will and the sound on the new­lyminted Rave Tapes is far from what its ti­tle sug­gests.

How­ever, some of the tracks from Rave Tapes do in­di­cate a move away from the band’s gui­tar-driven tem­plate. A track like Re­mur­dered, for in­stance, is largely built around synth lines and a throb­bing elec­tronic bass, as op­posed to the rock­cen­tred sonic ex­plo­sions from the past.

Braith­waite at­tributes this more to the film scores/sound­tracks that Mog­wai worked on through the years. Apart from Les Revenants, Mog­wai’s sound­track re­sume also in­cludes The Foun­tain (2006) and Zi­dane: A 21st Cen­tury Por­trait (2007).

“We’ve been work­ing around film scores for a large part of last year with Les Revenants and we also worked on the Zi­dane sound­track live (the band per­formed the Zi­dane: A 21st Cen­tury Por­trait sound­track for the first time in its en­tirety in Bri­tain last year). So if our sound has turned some­what darker and more elec­tronic, it’s be­cause of that,” said Braith­waite.

Mog­wai, made up of Braith­waite, gui­tarist and vo­cal­ist John Cum­mings, gui­tarist and key­boardist Barry Burns, bassist Do­minic Aitchi­son and drum­mer Martin Bul­loch, have been craft­ing mu­sic to­gether since the early 1990s. Mog­wai’s con­stant evo­lu­tion, ar­guably, has af­forded it a body of work that holds its own. The band has stayed on the right side of cool.

In­ter­est­ingly, Rave Tapes, un­like most of Mog­wai’s al­bums, does not fea­ture tunes with fan­tas­ti­cal ti­tles, al­though a case can be made for The Lord Is Out Of Con­trol.

As cu­ri­ous as th­ese Mog­wai song ti­tles of­ten are, Braith­waite says there’s hardly deeper mean­ing to them.

“We name them af­ter they are done and the ti­tles are usu­ally picked from phrases we like. But they are en­tirely ran­dom things,” he said.

“But af­ter nam­ing them, the names usu­ally start to set. At the end of it, lis­ten­ers can take what­ever they want from (our) mu­sic.”

Rave Tapes is the band’s eighth record, not count­ing the many film scores, EPs and remix al­bums.

Th­ese days, the post rock scene fea­tures names such as Sigur Ros (Ice­land), Ex­plo­sions in the Sky (United States), Mono (Ja­pan) and God­speed You! Black Em­peror (Canada). But this post rock phe­nom­e­non is largely at­trib­uted to Mog­wai’s mid 1990s charge, which car­ried on the early at­mo­spheric rock work by pi­o­neer­ing Amer­i­can out­fit Slint.

So do the Mog­wai mem­bers look back with ad­mi­ra­tion or dis­dain at this? “The term (post rock) is not my favourite be­cause it’s too gen­er­alised and largely coined to make it eas­ier for peo­ple to or­gan­ise their record col­lec­tion. But no, we do not re­gret be­ing in the com­pany of those bands as they are great bands,” said Braith­waite.

“I think the fans would al­ways be grate­ful for the move­ment, so no, it would be quite bad to re­gret that.”

Braith­waite went on to say that the band hopes to be able to re­turn to Malaysia late this year for a show. It played a well-re­ceived con­cert in Kuala Lumpur in 2009.

Mog­wai plays the Host­ess Club Week­ender at Fort Can­ning Park in Sin­ga­pore on Feb 22. For more de­tails, visit www.event­clique.com. Mog­wai’s Raves Tapes is re­leased by Sony Mu­sic.

Back to ba­sics: Scot­tish post rock out­fit Mog­wai — fea­tur­ing (from left), Martin bul­loch, Stuart braith­waite, barry burns, John Cum­mings and do­minic aitchi­son — is back with its eighth stu­dio full-length, raveTapes, which is a sparser, more glacial record than its pre­de­ces­sors.

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