Album Review: Mogwai-Rave Tapes

Does…does this album even need to be reviewed? I mean…c’mon people! It’s a brand new Mogwai album! As in the Scottish group that made instrumental music exciting again! How can it be physically possible, humanly even, to not rave about Mogwai? The album is fucking called ‘Rave Tapes’!

Okay, if you must know, this album rules so hard, it’s difficult to know where to begin. The rolling textures, the sharp, knifey melodies, the introduction of more unnerving electricity into their work? Mogwai have always been a moody band, but they usually build up their songs to epic proportions. On ‘Rave Tapes’, things are almost constantly kept subdued, humming at a menacing level, like the world’s most attractive mosquito.

On this album, it feels as though the band haven’t had anything extreme happen to them personally, but they’re reflecting on more worldly issues. The music incorporates more forward, electronic dynamics that push the album in a straight, focused line. Its always buzzing, seething, but never blows up or exasperates itself. Anyone who’s been a teenager can connect with that feeling, of being so mad that you feel like its more effective if you silently pray for your offenders’ demise than directly attack them. If anything, ‘Rave Tapes’ is the ultimate passive-agressive soundtrack. Forget your go-to Metallica/Marilyn Manson/Slipknot loud-fests that are basically torture screams over guitars. You want something that actually broods and speaks to your inner angst? Listen to this album on repeat.

On a more specific level, the songs of ‘Rave Tapes’ are, unsurprisingly, interesting as fuck. Like, more interesting than a chat in an opium den with Einstein, the Dalai Lama and Jim Morrison. The album is unbelievably textured, shifting between a million emotional paradigms. At one point, ‘Hexon Bogon’, which features tumultuous feedback undercutting dilapidating piano strokes, gives a vulnerable side to Mogwai. And then, a couple songs later, ‘Master Card’ provides a re-strengthend, thought-provoking journey with a thrusting, aggressive guitar part whilst synth waves shake the song to its core.

But, as usual for Mogwai albums, the most memorable moments of ‘Rave Tapes’ come from the more epic and sinister parts of the album. It’s just what the band do best. ‘Remurdered’, is the first taste of the album (and most brutal overall) where we get to hear some cynical musical savagery. As if the title wasn’t enough, the song itself plays out like a climactic scene of a gory Cormac McCarthy novel. At the beginning, the lighter key parts hint at some sort of bullshit happy discovery scenario. But as the song delves further into its six and a half minute run-time, the gruesome nature of the track reveals itself bit by bit. Seriously, if someone were to make a remake of Se7en, just have ‘Remurdered’ be the score. The heavy, scrambling notes that appear about halfway through the track are both primal and futuristic, like Blade Runner, if Harrison Ford were played by a Neanderthal.

Likewise, the track ‘Deesh’ stands out for its significantly villainous overtones that, although cut with some hopeful synths, bring the mood to a thoroughly bleak outlook. Even the closer of ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’, a track that was probably inspired in some part by the work of Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized, holds a certain darkness to it. The organ rings and robot-filtered vocals bring the song, and encapsulate the album’s overall vibe, of being the sort of future that is run by a Skynet programmed by the Westboro Baptists Church. Hell, maybe there’s actually a whole Terminator thing going on, and this is the only way the guys from Mogwai know how to warn us simple mortals.

‘Rave Tapes’ is not Mogwai’s best work. That being said, it’s not their worst either. It’s in a beautiful middle ground, very similar to 2003’s ‘Happy Music for Happy People’. Its minimalistic approach (for Mogwai, anyway) is different but for a mostly positive effect. But, despite the connotations of the title, ‘Rave Tapes’ is a pretty shy work. It never wants to point the finger, and rarely retreats out of the framework to give off the signature epic Mogwai blasts of emotion. Nonetheless, ‘Rave Tapes’ is accomplished, well-produced, and is more conceptual and resonating than 9/10 modern albums. And all this from a band that say nearly fuck all.

If you’re keen, (as you very well should be) you can hear an exclusive stream of the album here on The Guardian’s website, right here. ‘Rave Tapes’ comes out on the 17th of January, via Sub Pop/Rock Action/Spunk Records.

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Interview: Frightened Rabbit

I first fell in love with Frightened Rabbit in Year 10. That’s more or less the point in which I discovered that there was more to music than Green Day and 50 Cent. Frightened Rabbit were one of the first indie bands to really catch my attention, because they didn’t just go for the well-worn jangle bullshit. They wrote soulful stuff, and after a quick listen to ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ or ‘The Loneliness & the Scream’, I was infatutated. So, I was stoked when I got to send over a couple questions to Grant Hutchinson, the drummer for Frightened Rabbit, and ask him about the band.
R: Last year, you claimed that Australian bookers didn’t like you, and then all of a sudden you played Groovin’ the Moo (great show by the way! I was second row for it!) And are coming back next year for Laneway. Did the outburst attract a lot more attention?
G: The outburst certainly worked! It wasn’t planned that way we were just a little frustrated that we’d played Australia so many times and from our fans on Twitter and FB there seemed to be a demand for us to play gigs there but nobody wanted to take the risk and book us. Thankfully someone at Groovin’ The Moo was kind enough to have us along and we all had a bloody great time!
R: You guys have quite the relationship with Laneway festival, having played in 2010, and in the debut Detroit version of the festival. What attracts you so much to playing with Laneway? Do you enjoy the boutique feel?
G: Laneway have consistently come up with seriously strong lineups over the years. What I like is they have stuck to what they like and not sold out and given in to booking more commercial bands simply to shift tickets. That’s not something you see a lot of with festivals. Especially not a festival that has grown from nothing into what Laneway now is. I love the smaller boutique festivals. I prefer to see bands in more intimate surroundings and usually these festivals have better food selection and nicer beers on offer which is always good!!
R: Coming from Scotland, was it an interesting process gaining traction as a band with your unique brand of music? And what advice would you give to bands that are trying to break from a relatively obscure place with a niche sound, such as yourselves?
G: Although our sound is unique I also think it’s quite universally inclusive. We’re not doing anything massively experimental and Scott always uses lyrical themes which I think are easily relatable to most people’s experiences. When we play shows there’s a togetherness that you don’t see everywhere and that helps when you’re trying to get people’s attention. One thing I would say to any band is don’t compromise who you are at all. Stick to what you believe even if the other option seems more attractive at the time. Also to get where we are today wasn’t always easy and if you aren’t willing to put in the hours of work that come with it then just stop now because as well as a little luck you need to put in a lot of hard graft too.
R: On the topic of niche sounds, I was curious about what the writing process was for the lyrics. What’s the usual inspirations, both in terms of style and the lyrics themselves?
G: The lyrics are all still written by Scott. Although the last record was more collaborative musically we left the lyrics alone as I think it’s important there is still that strain of familiarity running through all the songs. Also I’m shit a writing creatively so the songs would really suffer if I tried! With the previous albums Scott has focused very much on himself but with Pedestrian Verse the focus definitely shifted more outward and concentrated a lot more on the themes of other people’s lives.
R: And with recording, I’ve noticed that your songs tend to be very, very full with lot’s of music being involved in the process of even just one song. How does one keep track, or when coming up with the various parts for a song, or even figure out what’s going to work with what?
G: This record was far more a band effort and having all those different sources of creativity makes for a very interesting recording process. You can never really tell if something is going to work for sure or not until you try it. It’s not like we’re just guessing and hoping for the best but we spent a lot of time making sure each part on this record was necessary to the song rather than just adding more layers and parts for the fun of it. We made that mistake with the album before and I think it was really bogged down in sound.
R: Speaking of new material, because ‘Pedestrian Verse’ was released earlier this year, and you guys are pretty prolific, is there any chance of new music on the horizon?
G: Of course! We plan on writing the new record in 2014 and hope to release it 2015. Due to the writing process changing on the last record and adjusting to a new label this album took a little longer than we would have liked and we want to avoid that this time so we’ll be looking to release some new material at the end of the year and a full new LP not long after that.
R: After being on a bunch of labels, you signed to Atlantic in 2010, Being signed to a major label, and being associated with the indie music scene, do people or fans ever give you grief over that decision?
G: When we initially announced the move we had a few doubters voicing their opinions online but nothing too serious. I think most of our fans had faith in us to do what was true to the band and not to be moulded in to something we are not comfortable with. On top of that Atlantic were signing a band on their 4th record knowing full well that’s how we felt so it was never part of their agenda to change anything about the band either. The longer the album writing process dragged on the more worried we all got about the major label stories you hear about so often but the reason it took so long was that everyone just wanted to get it right. We didn’t want to give anyone the option of writing that being on a major had really fucked up the band and our career!!
R: Finally, as a band, how do you shy away from becoming stale with your music?
G: Time off is as important as being on tour when you’re as busy as we have been this year. We’ve spent so much time together and so much time concentrating on the band that when we’re not on the orad it’s important to do other things and concentrate on having a more normal lifestyle than touring gives you. It means when we hit the road again with the new record even the old songs will feel new to us as we won’t have played them for a little while. It’s always interesting to work with new people too as this can give you a new viewpoint on something that you thought you’d hit a brick wall with. This could be different musicians, engineers or producers and I will certainly try and do a bit more of that at the start of next year.
Frightened Rabbit are playing Laneway Festival, in February of next year, along with HAIM, Lorde, Savages and Kurt Vile. I’m going, and you should put down whatever you’re doing right now and buy tickets. Frightened Rabbit are also playing sideshows, 5th of February at The Palace in Melbourne, and 6th of February at the Metro in Sydney.

Video(s): Best Coast + Montero + Speedy Ortiz + Mogwai

Mo’ music videos, mo’ problems. I believe thats an age old adage, or something. Anyway, coming at you from all sides are a bunch of videos from around the globe that will make you a worse person as you inhale sinful things through your eyes.

Best Coast-This Lonely Morning

The last time I saw a music video on Funny or Die, it was FIDLAR’s ‘Cocaine’, and Nick Offerman got his dick out. No cocks in this picture, only Best Coast’s absolutely lovely bleached surf-rock sounds. Wistful and fun, ‘This Lonely Morning’ is about as irresistible as having high tea with Beth Consentino.

Simple as always, Best Coast play tennis in the best way, by taking out all the factors of speed, fitness, velocity and flying balls, and reducing the sport to hitting a standstill object. Although not the best tennis-based music video of the year (that would go to Courtney Barnett, with ‘Avant Gardener’) but this is still a great clip/song.

Monteo-Dead Heads Come to Dinner

Imagine Kevin Parker teaming up with ‘Congatulations’-era MGMT, and then fry that result with way too much acid. The result would either be a manslaughter case or Montero, the soulful psych-pop project from Melbourne. Goddamn, ‘The Dead Heads Come to Dinner’ is a great song, half nervous laughter, half-drug induced coma, and all jittery, good times.

However, the music video steals the show, with hands down the freakiest shit of 2013 making a very welcome appearance. SEE: Purple Witches Raise the Occult With Hula Hoops! WATCH: Christmas-themed Creatures from the Swamp Confusedly  Rise To Their Rightful Thrones! ADMIRE: A Jellyfish Just Doing Its Thing!

Speedy Ortiz-No Below

Off their debut LP, its ‘No Below’ by Boston’s Speedy Ortiz. I feel like this video encapsulates everything the far right wing fears about the hippie culture. Even though I wouldn’t call Speedy Ortiz a hippie band, their usual stamp of tunes being a scuzzed-up modern nod to the Pixies etc., there are bugs crawling around on some boobs and what appears to be an orgy in the forest. Seems pretty hippie-like to me. Maybe these kids are on drugs!

Mogwai-The Lord is Out of Control

In case you’re a newcomer, Mogwai are a post-rock band from Scotland that everyone loves. And they make long songs. Except their new track ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’. Huh? That’s fucked up. However, the song itself is pretty par for the Mogwai course, a mixture of tantalising sounds all collapsing into waves of torturous noise. Although ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’ seems to hold a bit less of the usual attention grabbing sounds that Mogwai are capable of, the Spiritualized-ish tone of the track is delectable. As for the video, well its basically an art show in the video medium and it looks goddam good.

Video(s): The Creeping Ivies + Popstrangers + Alex Cameron + Buzz Kull + Touch Sensitive/Ego + Wave Racer

I don’t know about you, but the way I like to spend MY Friday nights is by watching music video after music video before falling into a tear-stained, square-eyed coma for up to twelve hours. Sounds pretty fun right? Well, now you can join in with me as I show off a bunch of music videos that are pretty great. The theme for this segment is ‘awesome’, and there’s the stream of thought that goes from rock n roll party soundtrack, down to the more introspective, and back up to some dastardly thumpers.

The Creeping Ivies-What Would Joey Ramone Do?

The Creeping Ivies are from Scotland, which is why its so damn weird that they sound like an inverted version of The Gooch Palms. Stand up snare? Check! Addictive, amateur guitar? Check! Snarled, simple and badass lyrics? Check, check, check!

Their brand of garage punk is a well-worn path, but The Creeping Ivies do it so damn well, and with such passion, that its better to let it go, and enjoy the flogging of brain cells and encapsulation of awesome that is The Creeping Ivies.

For the film clip, a bunch of old timers in exasperation get all up in arms at the question every punk has asked themselves: WWJRD. Would Joey Ramone piss on that business man minding his own business in the street below? Would Joey Ramone eat four-week old garlic bread? Would Joey Ramone go that Creeping Ivies show at [insert decrepit junkie shit-hole of a punk rock bar here]? Of course he would, he’s Joey fucking Ramone, and you should dare to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest frontmen in history.

Popstrangers-Rats in the Palm Trees

The video for Popstrangers latest single has arrived, and as expected its as flourishing and hazy as their music. Popstrangers became well-known for their unique brand of fuzz that isn’t quite surf, isn’t quite noise and isn’t dream-pop. Instead, they threw out the rule book and combined all that shit for some gloriously good times. Their track ‘Rats in the Palm Trees’ is more catchy than a case of crabs at a Venereal Disease Convention. As for the clip, you can expect some gorgeous shots that you probably won’t be able to pull your eye away from. In fact, you’ll probably get straight up immersed. Yeah, I went there.

Alex Cameron-Happy Ending

Alex Cameron’s ‘Jumping the Shark’ is the Album of the Week, and hot on the heels of the release comes the video for one of the eight amazing songs on that album. Like the song itself, the video is orgasmically 80’s. Basically, if Kevin Bacon from Footloose became a nervous-wreck, he’d probably turn into the character portrayed in the ‘Happy Ending’ clip. But, true to its title, there’s a happy ending for the protagonist after all, as he shuffles his way to purple-tinted, smoky ecstasy.

Buzz Kull-Bedroom Highs

Finally, someone that agrees with me that sunshine is for freaks! The haphazard, Frankenstein-monster of New Order x The Cure that is Buzz Kull’s new video clip shows a distorted view of what will happen if you lay on a tanning bed for too long. A wheel of colour constantly flickering in the video’s spectrum, and drunken double-images will fuck with the viewer to no end. If this was the latest video clip for Kings of Leon or something, it’d be the final nail in the coffin. But for a doomy, melancholic track from a band at the forefront of the new noise scene, (graduates include The KVB and The Soft Moon) well, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Touch Sensitive & Ego-#VJuke

Look, I’m not even 100% sure what’s going on here, but I’ll try to translate to the best of my ability. I think  Touch Sensitive (‘Pizza Guy’) and the visual artist Ego teamed up to create a track based off of submissions from Instagram, all sourced from the hashtag #VJuke. Truly, a sign of our times. But all doubters must be cast aside, as this video is a testament of what can be created once a moustachioed wonder tells you to do it. The product in question is the extremely groovy and danceable ‘#VJuke’, a track that buzzes like a bee on cocaine. As for the video, well, its an audio-visual sensory experience. Who knew that a bunch of morphing, multi-coloured shapes could be so transfixing?

Wave Racer-Rock U Tonite

Finally, one of the most promising up and comers on the Australian dance music scene, its Wave Racer’s official clip for ‘Rock U Tonite’. A ball-busting, hip-thrusting, nail-biter of a track if you’ve ever heard one, ‘Rock U Tonite’ throws its weight around to an extraordinary degree. Basically, you can’t help but dance to this track. And when combined with the disturbing acid-dream regurgitation that is the video clip, the song has already become a staple in your mind. Those trickling beats combined with the pulsating, vibrant nightmare of a video? Too fucking good.