Since their 1997 debut ‘Young Team’, Mogwai have always been a band who strive to push the limits of what rock music can be. Their dynamic sound effortlessly transforms tranquil atmospheres into mind melting noise and fierce guitar riffs. 2008’s ‘The Hawk is Howling’ and 2011’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die…’ showed a shifting in the sound of the band but were not as strong as the band’s earlier work. ‘Rave Tapes’, the eighth studio outing by the Scottish post-rock veterans, shows a more radical shift in the band’s sound while at the same time possessing familiar qualities.
‘Rave Tapes’ is opened by the drone of ‘Heard About You Last Night’. On ‘Simon Ferocious’ the synth riff builds with chaotic distorted guitars into a lush wall of sound. The band create a real heavy sound while at the same showing restraint as the sound builds with subtle tension into bursts of intense noise. This tension in build-up of the albums sound comes from careful layering of guitars, drums, and synthesizers which mesh together to create some really complex and engaging sonic textures throughout the album. The changes in volume don’t just walk up to you and hit you over the head; they rather creep up on you and swallow you in a sea of white noise.
The album sees Mogwai playing with different sound textures and atmospheres to create music that shows as much restraint as it does savagery. The striking synth rock of ‘Remurded’, shows the band drawing inspiration from krautrock and electronica. The snarling riffs on ‘Hexon Bogon’ combined with dark atmosphere make for thought provoking rock that will make your blood boil. Colossal riffs on ‘Master Card’ move with ferocious grace. This album’s shows Mogwai pushing their sound into extremes no better demonstrated than with the mix of aggressive guitars and sombre piano on ‘Blues Hour’. It’s an album designed to be loud and submerge the listener in noise, however under all that noise lays beauty; On ‘No Medicine For Regret’ a captivating synth melody floats through the darkly ethereal soundscape created by the bass, guitars and drums. The album is then brought to a beautiful close by ‘The Lord is out of Control’.
While the 10 songs on this album more or less use the same formula of building into enormous and rich walls of sound, it’s an absolutely brilliant formula executed masterfully. ‘Rave Tapes’ show a band that is evolving and maturing while at the same time sounding like the Mogwai we know and love. If you’re going to listen to one album this week, make it this one.