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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The New Sound of Mogwai

The New Sound of Mogwai
Hermana PR

Scottish instrumental prog-rockers Mogwai are back with Mr. Beast, the fifth (proper) album they’ve released in their eleven-year career. The band is credited with mastering the quiet-to-loud dynamic (that bands like Slint started) in their typically long, ambitious material, starting with their 1997 debut album Mogwai Young Team. But they abandoned that formula for a couple of subsequent records, thinking there was nowhere left to go with it. With Mr. Beast, the Glasgow quintet resurrects that quiet/loud magic and spreads those creations around the numerically superior softer set of tracks.

The band made it a point on this album not to overload each track with layers of instruments as they did in the past, which made live and studio versions of songs sound very different from one another, to the band’s dissatisfaction. According to the Matador press release, guitarist/vocalist Stuart Braithwaite just wanted to make a record they could enjoy playing live.

For a band that some consider to be one of the greatest guitar bands of our time, Mogwai makes the piano a prominent instrument throughout the record, with Barry Burns (keys/guitar/vocals) accounting for much of it. Things get off to a pleasant and slow start (in a good way) with “Auto Rock,” in which a melancholic, neo-classical piano-sounding passage fades in and is soon joined by buzzing, fuzzy guitar and a simple, constant drum beat.

Then, to the delight of old school Mogwai fans everywhere they bring the noise on such heavy hitters as “Glasgow Mega-snake,” “We’re No Here” and a couple more that contain rich levels of distortion and concentrated feedback that bring to mind the work of an underrated mid-1990s band named Hum (of “Stars” fame).

Despite the keyboard contribution of songwriter Craig Armstrong and guest spoken word vocals (in Japanese) from Tetsuya Fukagawa of Japanese hardcore group Envy, “I Chose Horses” has too similar a resemblance to “Team Handed” in terms of structure and substance, at least during some stretches of the song.

Having said that, one cannot deny the aesthetic qualities of these two beauties, particularly on “Horses,” where calm, practically monotone vocals, deep-sounding bass and vibrating electric guitar arpeggios mix with equally amiable and graceful piano parts and other (electronic) sounds relegated to the background, synths included.

All told, Mr. Beast is a well-constructed, mostly relaxing and (as the title suggests) occasionally loud record, definitely Mogwai’s best release in years.

Band website: www.mogwai.co.ukMogwai – Mr. Beast (Matador Records, © 2006)