Mogwai – 'Rave Tapes' album review

After soundtracking a zombie TV series, the post-rock act rise again with a synth-driven death-disco record

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Nearly two decades since they started making music, Scots post-rock quintet Mogwai still bring forth surprises. Releasing their eighth studio album on bubblegum-pink cassette (among other formats) is one such curveball. Basing it on a modular synth is another. And if you’re predicting the loud-quiet-loud dynamic with which the Glasgow band made their name, think again: their latest meditation is complex, nuanced and minimalist instead. But it’s no less fascinating.

There are further clues that ‘Rave Tapes’ is a key progression for these masters of ruckus. Since their last studio album, 2011’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’, they’ve been celebrating technology, and their artwork too now embraces science – or rather science fiction. The packaging of ‘Rave Tapes’ pops with multi-dimensional graphic polygons, waveforms and all-seeing eyes.

Yet, despite these day-glo headways, ‘Rave Tapes’ does not reinvent the reel-to-reel. Mogwai still have their knack for conjuring beauty from darkness – and vice versa – and their main weapons are still guitars and drums. Working again with their intuitive long-term producer Paul Savage, they continue to cast long shadows from their Castle of Doom recording studio in Glasgow: tracks like ‘Deesh’ and ‘Hexon Bogon’ are fraught with the same sense of transcendental dread that Mogwai have always invoked so exquisitely.

As ever, their songs are largely instrumental, but the few human(-ish) voices on ‘Rave Tapes’ are notable: the baritone monologue on ‘Repelish’ echoes ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ by Slint (an abiding influence on Mogwai), and ‘Blues Hour’ features a haunted chorale and spacious, slow-burn opening that is strangely reminiscent of The Blue Nile (of all people). Meanwhile the album’s funereal kiss-off, ‘The Lord is Out of Control’, encompasses a vocodered hymn that’s both disorientating and enlightening.

But the record’s greatest revelations arise from elevating Moog symphonies like the sublime ‘No Medicine for Regret’ and recent single ‘Remurdered’, whose chilling electro-rush evokes Mogwai’s Rock Action labelmates Errors and reveals an ongoing enchantment with sci-fi/horror director John Carpenter. Its title also nods to the group’s recent soundtrack for the zombie TV series ‘Les Revenants’ (‘The Returned’) and suggests, in thrilling terms, that even the undead can dance. ‘Rave Tapes’ is Mogwai’s death-disco album. All hail their (re)murder on the dancefloor.

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Listen to 'Rave Tapes' on Spotify

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