Mogwai - As the Love Continues
A Closer Listen
Exactly 25 years after the release of their first double-A single, Mogwai returns with their tenth album. In this industry, that’s quite an achievement. Even more impressive is the feeling that the Glasgow band may actually be getting better with age. At the very least, their music is still relevant and compelling, and man, can they craft a single.
As the Love Continues extends the trajectory of Every Country’s Sun, embracing the influence of bands such as New Order and Modern English. This warm retro sensibility is welded to a distinctly modern vibe, then scrubbed with low-fi edges and a slightly distorted, nostalgic fuzz. Another similarity to the previous album is the unanimity of quality across the board. But unlike Every Country’s Sun, the album contains only one overtly vocal track, not counting those with buried voices or vocoder. That piece, “Ritchie Sacramento,” is instantly catchy, with a memorable bassline and chorus. Sam Wiehl’s spectacular sci-fi video is another selling point, looking like the trailer of a promising series or film.
The other introductory single, “Dry Fantasy,” is more “classic” Mogwai: an instrumental track whose keyboard line is the earworm. Riding throughout the track, the motif also concludes the song, leaving a lasting impression. This time Vaj.power provides the colorful visuals, again on a sci-fi tip: dreamy and hypnotic, to match the song’s vibe. One can imagine an extension of X-Mix and The Amp, two series cancelled in their prime.
The entire album suggests Wiehl’s storyline, or the other way around. The opening words are also the title of the opening track: “To the bin, my friend, tonight we vacate Earth.” A gentle ambient heartbeat pulses the music to life. When the big chords crash in at 2:33, we’re already sold on the whole project: wild drama, big themes, a sense of largesse. And while “rock” and “alternative” are the band’s primary tags these days, they’re still proud to call themselves post-rock as well, a relief to those wondering if all the big bands ~ quiet in 2020 ~ had retired or moved on. Post rock + new wave nostalgia is a perfect combination in the still-new year.
“Ceiling Granny” is the obvious choice for a third single, launching with a signature riff, quickly met by another melodic guitar. At four minutes in length, there was time for a soft interlude, but what would be the point? Instead, the track rocks from start to finish, calling The Pixies to mind. Two late album guest appearances are the icing on an already rich cake. Atticus Ross and Colin Stetson appear on back-to-back tracks, adding their own distinctive flair. Ross and Mogwai are well-versed in soundtrack work by now, so it’s no surprise that “Midnight Flit” is cinematic; the focus shifts from electronics to drums before an orchestral second half surge. And as for “Pat Stains,” wail, brother, wail.
In a time where consistency is rare, it’s wonderful to have bands to depend on. Mogwai formed in 1995, the same year as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; we’re ready to vote them in. (Richard Allen)Mon Feb 08 00:01:36 GMT 2021
Mogwai’s traditional indirectness – their penchant for naming predominantly instrumental tracks after obscure references or with dense layers of irony – is gleefully flaunted on As The Love Continues, when a voiceover calmly reads the title of the opening track. The remainder unfurls in typical Mogwai fashion, but as an opening remark it sticks out as a deliberate counter to their established style: “To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth”.
Directness isn’t much of a theme here, but it does set up how the band’s traditional approaches are gently massaged through the record. This instance showcases a self-referential and playful theme, which goes some way to set the tone. Their tenth record isn’t a complete aesthetic shift like 2014’s heavily electronic Rave Tapes was, but does show them tinkering with their methods, stripping back to basics and then re-adding some unexpected sounds to evoke a variety of moods.
The record is underpinned by the simplistic, lax drum grooves, rock beats played at medium tempos without much variation, taking the pulse of psych or dance music and transposing it to a washy post-rock haze. This gives a lot of space for them to try some weird sounds and variations: electronic bleeps on ‘Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever’ or the sweeping strings of ‘Midnight Flit’ stir up a whole spectrum of emotions using totally different palettes, anchored by the common pulse. At the edge of all of these, the sound is sometimes a little distorted, wobbly or unclear. They’ve employed a little noise rock before on vintage tracks like ‘I Love you, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School’, but previously always as an assault; now it’s become a little flourish.
This lands them with a record that’s impressively cohesive and outright weird at times, flirting with all the styles the’ve worked with over the years. The temptation for Mogwai has been to make smoother, calmer music recently, more in line with their soundtrack work. This record seems to fly in the face of that. But they’ve clearly learned a lot from their moody soundscapes, even if they break from the ambience by employing the cut and thrust of their earlier rock work, retaining momentum, lending urgency to these ideas and textures.
Mogwai’s attitude towards experimentalism shows in the darker corners, the nooks and crannies of their sound where little glow worms of ideas grow and decay. Elsewhere this is well-orchestrated, subtle and playful, with the confidence to indulge both themselves and the audience.
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Read Marty Sartini Garner’s review of the album.Mon Feb 22 06:00:00 GMT 2021