Album Title: Rave Tapes
Release Date: January 20th
“Getting out of the house is a challenge.” Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite quipped recently in an interview with The Guardian. While this quote is a seemingly inconsequential retort, find listening to Rave Tapes; the latest offering from the prolific post-rock pioneers, thumb you can almost feel a sense of foreboding dread colliding with the cold expectations of reality fitting of such a glib remark. A soundtrack tailor made for self-obsession and overanalyzing, this is an introspective album which takes advantage of the listener, inspiring that paranoia and fear that would make leaving the house a chore. Mogwai’s music has always nested between evocative and repetitively captivating, and Rave Tapes, while an interesting listen, does not stray too far from this recipe.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – fans of any band generally want more of what they know they like – but it gives the album a distinct sense of safety. This is an album which understands its listener – and will force them to think about themselves, their fears and how the world bolsters those fears. From the opening moments of ‘Heard About You Last Night, we’re met with an incomprehensible mumble which is succeeded by a lonesome, regimented electronic track to be joined by the human instruments (guitar, bass and drums). It would be easy to overthink the reasoning behind such an opening; but philosophical posturing aside it is undoubtedly a very strong opening track, which gives a glimpse at what’s to come.
Rave Tapes is an album that looks fondly at Mogwai’s past works – it isn’t a case of deviation, but of addition. This is Mogwai’s most sizeable experimentation with synth and electronic music; but it hasn’t replaced anything. The marauding basslines are still there, as are the simmering guitar tracks which only increase in intensity until the boil over. The album seamlessly melds these two musical worlds. When the marriage of synth and more traditional instruments feels uneasy, it has a purpose; to impart that same uneasy feeling onto the listener. It does this with varying effectiveness throughout the album. However; it’s easy to see that the highest points of the album are when the synth and traditional instruments are simpatico. The best example of this, which also happens to be the greatest deviation from previous Mogwai outings, is the album’s first single Remurdered, which sounds like it belongs on the Halloween soundtrack.
The album does have its weird points though. The album’s midway point ‘Repelish’ is a four minute spoken word piece about a conspiracy theory surrounding Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ set to a disconcerting backing track. Mogwai have used spoken word to great success in the past, but its inclusion here is questionable. This being said, as the album started on a high note, it finishes on an unquestionable apotheosis. The second single of the album – ‘The Lord is Out Of Control’ rounds out this subversive hour long album that never exceeds its creative reach.
Coire Mc Crystall