‘As The Love Continues’
(Watch this interview with Stuart Braithwaite and John Robb here)
Still setting their controls for the heart of the sun, ten albums in and Mogwai are constantly pushing forward.
The Glasgow-based band have spent years pushing the narrative and exploring all the subtle moods and shape-shifting dynamics of a music that has pushed the post-Slint envelope into something truly special and almost orchestral.
Recent years have seen them employed in soundtrack work, which is an interesting twist on their dynamic and sees them stretch their sound taut, allowing so many sonic nuances to escape. These soundscapes describing celluloid demand more space and a calmer approach, which they have employed on As The Love Continues.
The new album brings this into play with beautifully barren stretches that are like the astonishing images of Mars, holding the tension for the climactic build-ups. This is sensual music that reconnects with the subtle oddness of their work, finding release with those dense plateaus of sound as they build and build.
Tension and release is still the key and the band have honed this down to a perfect art form. They still retain their powerful ebb and flow as the sonic textures build and build into a terse tension which is released into huge plateaus of sound like the Martian hills surrounding the barren drained lakes to get lost in.
In these odd dystopian times, where the world is not so much plunged into sci-fi darkness as in a curious suspended animation, with a veneer of normality stretched over the quark, strangeness and charm of the new normal Mogwai are, perhaps, the perfect soundtrack. Guitarist Stuart Braithwaite has explained that the album is a non-pandemic record and a more positive piece.
Perhaps this is an over-reading of these soundscapes to try and shoehorn them into contemporary times but, walking the streets of Manchester with a hide full of napalm and the album cranked up to 10/10 in headphones, it becomes a very fitting soundtrack. Even the making of the record was very 2020, recorded remotely via Zoom with The Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann, who has pulled off the magic trick of making an underground album feel mainstream without losing a neutrino of its creativity.
The layers of sound build up over hypnotic simplistic drum grooves, holding down the heartbeat and letting the instruments entwine and build. Of course, there are new textures in the sound – added strings bringing a grandeur to Midnight Flit, electronic bleeps and squiggles undertow Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever. The opening track, To The Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth, is almost geological in its soundscape and Ritchie Sacramento could easily be made into a documentary of its own with its back story of the late Silver Jews frontman, Dave Bergman throwing a shovel at a sports car inspiring, somehow, Stuart Braithwaite to sing the closest to a pure pop moment the band have dreamt up yet. The song drips that melodic perfection of Outdoor Miner period Wire. Drive The Nail builds up to one of their perfect head-nodding crescendos, and the fantastically named Ceiling Granny is like a snapshot of the band’s youth – reminding us of that Dinosaur Jnr period of Homestead Records and the yearning possibilities of fuzzbox-drenched guitars.
The album is a world to get lost in, a world of the shimmering melancholia of The Cure, the spatial adventures of post-punk and the subtle moods, textures and shifts in sound that Mogwai have become the magicians of – a music that creates a film that runs in your head, a total trip, a genius head fuck and not so much nostalgia for an age yet to come as a soundtrack for a film yet to be made.