Mogwai is a name that has attained a certain respect and reverence, having released a good dozen full length recordings in their eighteen years as a band. Rave Tapes is an album that showcases many of the tools of the Glasgow-based band has wielded in the past. They don’t seem to be re-inventing the wheel here, but are more so refining the ecclectic sense of songcraft.
Though in the last several years, Mogwai has flexed their creative muscle for the sake of film soundtracks (most notably 2013’s Les Revenants), this one is truly born of their own creative genesis. To be honest, though, many of these songs sound like they could be used for movies in the right context, so clearly the experience of crafting music for film has left a mark on their flair for the dramatic. “Remurdered” trods along in a tense and angular fashion, froths with more and more instrumentation until a satisfying if somewhat sudden end (for an over six-minute track, no less.)
Though it purposely doesn’t have the energy of many of the rest of the tracks here, “Blues Hour” is a disarmingly bare-bones affair that proves to be a standout, spearheaded by a soulful vocal that steps along with a distracted drum beat and lightly touched piano line. It positively floats at the chorus, with carefully escalating orchestration that feels like more than the sum of its parts, even if it is basically a couple of guitars and piano doing most of the work.
Elsewhere, the spoken word, “Repelish.” which describes the rock-lore controversy of satanic “back-masked” messages in rock music, is a bit of an enigmatic inclusion here. But is succeeded by the excellent and equally angular “Mastercard,” with its excellent heavy guitar interplay, and then the pulsating “Deesh,” which leave the former misstep quickly forgotten.
Overall, Rave Tapes is a thoroughly solid outing for the veterans Mogwai. Having built and honed a dynamic aesthetic in their near twenty year existence, each of their projects seems to yield new and enthralling results which shall be built on for future releases.