Album Review: Mogwai, ‘Rave Tapes’

Written by Michael Kundrath

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Little known fact: Being in a band isn’t easy. Artistic collaboration over long periods of time has a tendency to lead to unforeseen disagreements, bruised egos, old friends gradually hating each other – all that good stuff. It’s why a lot of great bands crumble before reaching a third record. Luckily on the flip side there are bands like prolific Scottish, post-rock masterminds, Mogwai, who for almost two decades have been at it producing a wealth of amazing music, touring the world, cultivating a massive fan base and keeping the creative juices flowing.

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Channeling a robust and mind absorbing mix of Explosions In The Sky’s slow-burning, emotional grandeur, …Trail of Dead’s avant-garde/indie rock aesthetic and Boards Of Canada’s out-of-this-world ambiance, Mogwai craft lushly layered, highly affecting, predominantly instrumental music that packs a powerful punch. The band’s new release, Rave Tapes, their 8th studio album, is a beautiful and bizarre journey straight into the band’s unique inner psyche.

Each of the ten songs rides a wave between natural and supernatural, familiar and unfamiliar, all thoroughly captivating to the ears. There are spellbinding slow jams like album opener — and highlight track — “Heard About You Last Night,” with its shimmering, lustrous guitar work and excellently laid-back drum beat; slightly more up tempo, crunchy rock cuts like, “Hexon Bogon,” with its epic, signature-Mogwai musical moments led by screaming guitars, deliciously drenched in copious amounts of delay.

Perhaps most distinctive about Rave Tapes versus the band’s other records is the heavier electronic elements that are also present. More specifically, we’re talking big time synthesizers and drum machines. Songs like the magnificent “No Medicine For Regret” and the entirely engrossing, way out-there, “The Lord Is Out Of Control” have thick, futuristic, space age-y overtones that sometimes have you feeling like you’ve peacefully crash-landed on Mars. The vibes are akin to Air’s 2004 album Talkie Walkie. Suffice to say, it’s all pulled off. Convincingly.

Other standout songs include the melodic, gloriously intense, “Deesh,” the deep-toned, synth-led, head-bobber, “Simon Ferocious,” and the all electronic, trip-to-beyond, “Remurdered.”

It gets a little too weird for my liking on “Replenish,” which features a rant of a man explaining how he discovered a satanic subliminal message hidden within Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” on top of some decent music. Granted it’s intriguing at first, but… eh.

Though now I totally want to test out that theory.

Arguably their most ethereal record to date, Rave Tapes is a strong body of work. My only disclaimer is that it can feel a little underwhelming at first, so spend some time with it. Cue it up on those long car rides, study sessions, and 1000% crank it up if you just picked up that medical marijuana prescription. That’s indisputable.

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