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Alternative & Indie - Released January 20, 2014 | Rock Action Records

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
During the time they were making Rave Tapes, Mogwai's flair for soundtracks was being celebrated: the band began 2013 with the release of their brilliant score for Les Revenants, the cryptic French TV show about the undead, and they were just about to play a series of performances of their music for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait as accompaniment to the movie. All this film-related activity may have inspired Rave Tapes' restraint (the fact that the band had a narrow window of time in which to record the album probably contributed to it as well). For much of the album, Mogwai trades majesty for economy, focusing on a few motifs that they combine and recombine in an almost modular fashion. Barry Burns' bubbling, gurgling synth is chief among these elements, especially on "Simon Ferocious," where it locks in with rolling beats and knotty guitar work with a precision that stops just short of clinical. Hearing the band put together these song-puzzles offers a more cerebral kind of listening experience than Les Revenants' spare, mournful dread or Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will's rock fury; even when Mogwai turn up the volume, they remain aloof. Some of Les Revenants' eeriness informs "Remurdered"'s cold-blooded electro-rock, while "Hexon Bogon" and "Master Card" coil heavy riffs upon themselves until they're about to snap. As impressive as Rave Tapes' rockers are, the album's heart lies in subtler tracks like "Heard About You Last Night," a dreamy prelude that makes the most of the delicacy Mogwai has excelled at since their early days. Similarly, the quietly anthemic "Blues Hour" and vocoder-driven "The Lord Is Out of Control" hark back to the muted beauty of Mr. Beast and Come On Die Young's implosive minimalism. Rave Tapes takes a while to hit its stride, but it delivers plenty of moments to keep fans intrigued once it does. ~ Heather Phares

Progressive Rock - Released November 25, 1997 | Chemikal Underground

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Young Team, Mogwai's first full-length album fulfills the promise of their early singles and EPs, offering a complex, intertwining set of crawling instrumentals, shimmering soundscapes, and shards of noise. Picking up where Ten Rapid left off, Mogwai use the sheer length of an album to their advantage, recording a series of songs that meld together -- it's easy to forget where one song begins and the other ends. The record itself takes its time to begin, as the sound of chiming processed guitars and murmured sampled vocals floats to the surface. Throughout the album, the sound of the band keeps shifting, and it's not just through explosions of noise -- Mogwai isn't merely jamming, they have a planned vision, subtly texturing their music with small, telling details. When the epic "Mogwai Fears Satan" draws the album to a close, it becomes clear that the band has expanded the horizons of post-rock, creating a record of sonic invention and emotional force that sounds unlike anything their guitar-based contemporaries have created. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

TV Series - Released February 25, 2013 | Rock Action Records

Distinctions 5/6 de Magic
Ever since the stunning scene in 28 Days Later when Cillian Murphy's character wakes to find London transformed into a wasteland set to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "East Hastings," post-rock and zombies have gone hand in rotting hand, and with good reason: the style's mix of dramatic dynamics and poignant melodies conveys the massive dread and shock of living in a world where the dead walk the earth. Mogwai, who have explored death and horror imagery in their music since the beginning and have written scores to Zidane and Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, were long overdue to write music for a project like Les Revenants, their score for the French TV series based on the 2004 film of the same name. In the show, the dead rise from their graves, but the world doesn't end and panic doesn't necessarily ensue (immediately, anyway). Reflecting this, Mogwai's music is more of a slow burn than a musical inferno. Les Revenants is a true score in that it rarely draws attention to itself unnecessarily, and these cues evoke moods rather than forcing them. This music is often restrained, even gentle, at times recalling the softest moments on early EPs like Ten Rapid on tracks like "Relative Hysteria," "Special N," and "Fridge Magic," which twinkles with a frosty menace. There's even a lullaby of sorts in "What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?," one of a handful of singalongs in the band's songbook. Of course, there are a few moments of drama, most notably in the score's bookends "Hungry Face" and "Wizard Motor" and the ominous, fuzz bass-driven "This Messiah Needs Watching," but even those tracks never explode the way that albums like Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will did. And that's a good thing: as much as Mogwai are known for defining post-rock's sound, they're just as good at defying expectations, which Les Revenants does with an intimate, low-key brilliance. ~ Heather Phares

Progressive Rock - Released February 14, 2011 | Rock Action Records

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
By the 2010s, post-rock had been around long enough that the style’s artists could look back to their roots. Mogwai does that on Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, from the title’s bone-dry humor to the band’s reunion with Young Team producer Paul Savage. The musical DNA of Young Team -- and its definitive track “Like Herod” in particular -- is everywhere on Hardcore Will Never Die, informing the doomy coda of “Too Raging to Cheers” as well as opening track “White Noise”'s graceful melodic arcs, which lure the listener in rather than making a grand statement. Indeed, the album carries much of its emotional weight in its keyboard melodies, whether it’s the subtle soar of “Death Rays” or the more mournful tones of “Letters to the Metro.” Compared to the epic sprawl of The Hawk Is Howling, Hardcore Will Never Die feels simpler and more structured. The album’s rock songs, including “Mexican Grand Prix” and “San Pedro,” feel almost like a theme Mogwai returns to throughout the album, with driving motorik rhythms and precipitous riffing that get heads nodding vigorously, if not exactly banging. Mogwai tease listeners with tantalizing glimpses of their full power as the album progresses with “Rano Pano”'s shimmering majesty and “How to Be a Werewolf”'s epic solo, but they save Hardcore Will Never Die's definitive onslaught for last. “You’re Lionel Richie” combines the driest wit with the heaviest rock -- a quintessential Mogwai move -- as it builds from quasi-classical guitar figures to a scorching climax. As impressive as this moment is, it underscores how much smaller and subtler this album is than what came before it. While the album is far from rote, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will certainly feels familiar; it may not be as immediately impressive as some Mogwai albums, but its back-to-basics approach makes it another fine addition to their body of work. ~ Heather Phares

Alternative & Indie - Released July 21, 2014 | Chemikal Underground Records

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue

Progressive Rock - Released July 20, 2008 | Rock Action Records

Ten Rapid compiles the bulk of the singles Mogwai released between 1995 and 1997, but the tone of the music is so consistent, it could have all come from the same session. Like a post-rock band, Mogwai is about subtle, shifting sonics and repetition, but they are hardly as precious or cerebral as any post-rock group. Each of their songs sounds as if it goes around in a circle, surrounding itself in interlocking, mathematical patterns. While there are waves of feedback washing over the album, the music itself sounds like it's in the distance. Their habit of burying vocals (which aren't featured that often in the first place) also keeps Mogwai from reach, and nothing on Ten Rapid is immediately engaging, even though it is intriguing. With repeated listens, the album reveals its hidden layers, and the music becomes hypnotic in its gradual, deliberate pace and interwoven guitars. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Progressive Rock - Released March 5, 2006 | Play It Again Sam

Possibly the most accessible yet sophisticated album Mogwai has released, Mr. Beast strips away most of the electronic embellishment of their recent work in favor of a back-to-basics sound that returns to and expands on the approach they pioneered on Young Team. Mr. Beast is also a surprisingly spontaneous-sounding album -- in the best possible sense, its freshness makes it feel like a recorded practice session and also helps give relatively delicate pieces like "Team Handed" the same amount of impact that heavy, searing tracks like the closer, "We're No Here," have. Interestingly, more of Mr. Beast tends toward the former kind of song than the latter; "Friend of the Night," "Emergency Trap," and the glorious, slow-burning album opener, "Auto-Rock," give the album an unusually refined, even elegant feel that is underscored by the prominent use of piano and lap steel in the arrangements. On songs like "Acid Food" and the magnificent "I Chose Horses" -- which features cavernously deep bass and spoken word vocals by Tetsuya Fukagawa from the Japanese hardcore band Envy -- Mr. Beast feels downright pastoral. However, Mogwai doesn't give up their heavy side entirely, as the aforementioned "We're No Here" and "Glasgow Mega-Snake" show; any song that has either "mega" or "snake" in the title should rock, and this one does, kicking off with a claustrophobic snarl of guitars that makes this one of the most intense pieces Mogwai has ever recorded. Mr. Beast manages to be immediate without sounding dumbed-down.. ~ Heather Phares

Progressive Rock - Released October 29, 2006 | Wall of Sound

Mogwai's Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait doesn't have much in the way of catchy melodies, and its tracks tend to blend into each other -- but these are precisely the reasons why this score is so effective. Droning, hypnotic, but subtly tense, this album is about crafting and sustaining a mood, even more so than the band's collaboration with Clint Mansell on the music for The Fountain. It's understandable why fans expecting another Young Team or even Mr. Beast might find Zidane too monochromatic: on tracks such as "Black Spider," Mogwai shift their famously wide-ranging dynamics into neutral, concentrating on the band's shimmering, introspective side; it's only toward the end of the over 20-minute hidden track tacked onto "Black Spider 2" that Mogwai approach heavier territory. Meanwhile, the moody piano and guitar themes repeat on "Half Time" and "Time and a Half," giving the score a unity that could seem monotonous separated from the film's context. However, while most of Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is the musical equivalent of a faint but still distinct shadow, several tracks are standouts, albeit subtle ones. "Wake Up and Go Berserk" -- which follows in the footsteps of other ironically named Mogwai works like Rock Action and Happy Songs for Happy People -- is a thing of bleak beauty, mingling vapor-trail electric guitar textures with looping acoustic guitar melodies. Likewise, "7:25" and "I Do Have Weapons" are also sublimely poignant, without ever feeling like they're pandering. It's easy and true enough to say that this album will appeal mostly to Mogwai diehards, but it's such a quietly accomplished musical portrait of one of soccer's most complex and controversial personalities that Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait could very well add some soundtrack buffs and sports aficionados to the band's ranks of fans. ~ Heather Phares

Progressive Rock - Released September 21, 2008 | Wall of Sound

With each album, Mogwai discovers new ways of balancing the power and subtlety of their music. On The Hawk Is Howling, the band returns to its roots, working with producer Andy Miller for the first time in a decade and delivering its first set of completely instrumental songs in several albums' time. This is the most massive Mogwai's music has felt in quite awhile -- and for a band that turns in expansive pieces as regularly as they do, that's saying something. "I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead" opens the album with shades of Mr. Beast's sparkling beauty, but it uses every second of its nearly seven minutes to more climactic effect than the previous album's subdued approach: beginning with intertwining pianos and keyboards, it teeters on the edge between beautiful and ominous, ratcheting up the tension until the song finally dies out with a violin that bleeds into feedback. That still doesn't quite prepare listeners for the wallop that "Batcat" -- which is The Hawk Is Howling's lead single -- packs. It's no secret that Mogwai loves metal and has never shied away from heaviness in their own music, but even their most churning workouts seemed to hover; "Batcat" hits the ground hard, and with a blunter impact, than any of their previous guitar workouts. As fantastic as "Batcat" is, it represents The Hawk Is Howling only as proof of how wide-ranging the album's sound is. "The Sun Smells Too Loud" is aptly trippy and surprisingly poppy, with wispy electronic textures and a huge rhythm section that gives the song almost planetary heft; and though "Daphne and the Brain" doesn't hit any peaks or valleys, its rolling majesty and shadowy guitar melodies are still awe-inspiring. Between these major statements, The Hawk Is Howling takes breathers with smaller-scale tracks, like the glittering "Kings Meadow," that reveal their intricacy with repeated listens. The album's second half expands on that subtlety in different ways: Though the Heathers-quoting "I Love You, I'm Going to Blow Up Your School" climaxes in a skewering guitar solo, it's preceded by six minutes of artful counterpoint and jazz-tinged drumming; "Scotland's Shame" takes the opposite approach, with strong rhythms propelling a pensive melody for a uniquely mournful yet hard-hitting result. These tracks demand close listening, which makes "The Precipice"'s slow-burning tribal rhythms and swarming guitars even more dramatic as the album's final statement. At first, it's tempting to want all of The Hawk Is Howling to be as obviously powerful as its biggest tracks, but with time it reveals itself as one of Mogwai's most masterful blends of delicacy and strength. ~ Heather Phares

Progressive Rock - Released February 21, 2005 | Play It Again Sam


Progressive Rock - Released June 9, 2003 | Play It Again Sam

At first glance, the album title Happy Songs for Happy People seems almost as ironic as the name of their previous album, Rock Action. After listening to the album, however, it's apparent that its title isn't just meant as a joke. Though "happy" isn't necessarily the first word that springs to mind when describing the band's intricate, brooding style, it is a word and emotion that is both simple and profound, much like the direction Mogwai's music takes here. Happy Songs for Happy People takes the focus and restraint of Rock Action to greater lengths, but it never feels like a rehash of their previous work. The palette of sounds the band uses -- which includes rolling guitars and pianos, swelling strings, persuasive but un-showy drumming, and occasional forays into distortion and electronics -- is a relatively small one, but the band uses it wisely on tracks as diverse as the lovely, understated "Kids Will Be Skeletons" (arguably the "happiest" song on the album) and the gloriously dense finale, "Stop Coming to My House," which piles layers and layers of distorted drums, guitars, and synths atop each other. Mogwai also employs its usual quietly beautiful/explosively noisy dynamic formula expertly, particularly on the gorgeous "Killing All the Flies," which feels much longer (in a good way) than four and a half minutes. Old-school Mogwai fans disappointed by the relative brevity of most of Happy Songs for Happy People's songs should be pleased by "Ratts of the Capital," which, over the course of eight minutes, nearly reaches the epic proportions of the Young Team/Come on Die Young era. Once again, though, it's not merely a return to their old sound: The track begins with darkly chiming guitars and xylophones and then builds to a crushing climax, but even its heaviest moments are leavened with beauty, and its nearly symmetrical rise and fall make it fit perfectly with the rest of the album. Fortunately, though, the new techniques Mogwai explores on this album are just as satisfying, if not more so, than the band's familiar ones: "Golden Porsche"'s richly mellow bass and pianos sound more akin to Americana than post-rock, while "I Know You Are But What Am I?"'s shuffling, piston-like rhythm and twinkling synths are both brooding and childlike. A strangely dreamy, reverent feel winds through the album, surfacing on the Spiritualized-esque "Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep" and "Moses? I Amn't," which has a buzzing synth bass so deep it makes your brain vibrate. In some ways, Happy Songs for Happy People is almost too consistent -- by the time its second half rolls around, it's easy to take its dense beauty for granted. The upside is that it's one of those rare albums where you're convinced that you've just heard the song that is going to be your favorite -- until you hear the next song, and then the song after that. With Happy Songs for Happy People, Mogwai gets to have it both ways -- it's ironic and sincere, concise and expansive, challenging and accessible, and it's one of the band's best albums, no two ways about it. ~ Heather Phares

Progressive Rock - Released November 5, 2001 | Play It Again Sam

The sticker on the disc is intriguing enough, calling it a "companion to their recent Rock Action album" and "two parts serenity and one part death metal." My Father My King is a single track of the same name that lasts over 20 minutes. Though the inlay card features the Jewish Rosh Hashanah hymnal from which the melody originated, it is an instrumental. The meat is somewhat similar to the band Earth's sludgy, monotone feedback or Caspar Brötzmann Massaker sans singing, with a nicely noisy production job from a man accustomed to such things, Steve Albini, bookended with relative tranquility. Call it mood music for mood swings and unlike anything the Scottish troupe has endeavored, but it still retains the experimental, arty flair Mogwai is identified with. ~ Brian O'Neill

Progressive Rock - Released October 1, 2001 | Chemikal Underground

Like Ten Rapid but with a more awkward name, [RoviLink="MW"]Mogwai [EP+6][/RoviLink] collects some of the experimental rock titans' singles and EPs with such a natural feel that it almost seems like it was designed as an album. In this case, 1997's 4 Satin EP is joined with 1999's self-titled EP and "Xmas Steps," the single version of Come on Die Young's track. The 13-and-a-half-minute "Stereodee" is just as compelling an epic as any of the tracks that wound up on either of those albums, showcasing the band's masterful way with ebbing, flowing, letting a song explode, and pulling it back together again. "Xmas Steps" -- which is a minute longer than the album version of the song -- also shows how expertly Mogwai can play with time and dynamics as they scale a mountain of sound that turns out to be a volcano when they get to the top. This pair of tracks makes up the heart of [RoviLink="MW"]Mogwai [EP+6][/RoviLink], but "Stanley Kubrick"'s limpid pedal steel and "Burn Girl Prom Queen" round out its melancholy soul. These tracks surrounding the Young Team/Come on Die Young era show that Mogwai distribute their wealth pretty equally among their long and short-form releases, and make this collection necessary for any fan who doesn't own these songs already. ~ Heather Phares

Progressive Rock - Released April 30, 2001 | Play It Again Sam

Sripping away much of the noodling and noise of their earlier work in favor of tighter structures, more immediate melodies, and vocals, on Rock Action Mogwai recaptures the excitement that surrounded their first releases. Like so many groups stuck with the post-rock tag, Mogwai needed a way to expand beyond the term without changing their sound completely, and aided by guests like producer Dave Fridmann and Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys, they've found it. Rock Action incorporates bristling distortion, propulsive drums, and electronic textures similar to Tortoise's Standards -- particularly on the opening track "Sine Wave" -- but the album's most remarkable moments revisit and reinvent more traditional sounds. Buoyed by lush string arrangements and Fridmann's detailed, warm production, the brooding ballads "Take Me Somewhere Nice" and "Dial: Revenge" couldn't be further from "rock action," but they display the album's refreshing restraint and immediacy. In particular, "Dial: Revenge" -- so named because "dial" is the Welsh word for "revenge" -- benefits from Rhys' emotive yet cryptic vocals in his mother tongue, but the general emphasis on vocals adds to the album's organic, emotive feel. Nowhere is this more evident than the nine-minute epic "2 Rights Make One Wrong": With its lush layers of brass, strings, banjo, guitars, and vocals, it sounds like the rock-oriented cousin of Jim O'Rourke's pocket symphonies. Meanwhile, "You Don't Know Jesus" uses its eight-minute length to reaffirm that the group is still at the top of its game when it comes to guitar-driven catharsis. "Secret Pint" sends the album out on a serene note, proving that in the proper hands, the quietest ballad is just as commanding as the loudest rock action; Rock Action shows that Mogwai have mastered both styles. ~ Heather Phares

Progressive Rock - Released March 29, 1999 | Chemikal Underground

"Too much, too soon" is a tattered rock & roll cliché, but it continues to tell the tale of many young bands, such as Glasgow's acclaimed post-rock collective Mogwai. Usually, the phrase is hauled out to describe an intoxicated downward spiral by bands that had too much success all at once, but Mogwai suffered too much praise -- too many accolades from critics, too much reverence from underground hipsters. The singles compilation Ten Rapid and the debut Young Team deserved all the acclaim they earned, but a funny thing happened while Mogwai was recording their much-anticipated second album, ironically titled Come on Die Young -- the band went stale, producing a lethargic trawl through post-Slint and Sonic Youth territory. Where their free-form noise improvisations were utterly enthralling on their earlier records, the ebb and flow is entirely too familiar throughout Come on Die Young, largely because they follow the same pattern on each song. And each cut blends into the next, creating the impression of one endless track that teeters between deliberately dreamy crawls and random bursts of noise. Granted, that was the blueprint for Young Team, but there is little dynamism anywhere on Come on Die Young. Mogwai repeat the same riffs with the same inflection, never pushing themselves toward new sonic territory, yet never hitting a mesmerizing trance. It feels like a degraded photocopy of their earlier records -- it's possible to discern the initial spark that made them fascinating, but this current incarnation is too smudged and muddy to hold attention on its own terms. Perhaps Come on Die Young wouldn't have seemed as disappointing if it hadn't arrived on the wave of hype and expectation, but the truth is, it pales in comparison to their own work. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine