Mogwai


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Ten Rapid, 6.5/10 (comp)
Young Team, 7/10
Come On Die Young, 6/10
Macrocosmica: Ad Astra , 6/10
Fiend: Caledonian Gothic , 6/10
Fiend: Caledonian Cosmic , 6/10
Fiend: Caledonian Mystic , 5/10
The Rock Action , 6/10
Happy Songs For Happy People (2003), 6.5/10
Mr Beast (2006), 6/10
The Hawk Is Howling (2008), 6/10
Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will (2011), 5/10
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Scotland's Mogwai anchored the blissful, impressionistic ambience of Young Team (1997) to atmospheric guitar sounds, ranging from celestial drones to hellish walls of distortions. Removing the impetus of that work, Come On Die Young (1999) revisited the desolate soundscapes of "slo-core", music that wandered, drifted, diluted itself into myriad variations of its own theme. The slowly-unfolding ballads of The Rock Action (2001) and the carefully orchestrated, organic, rational sonatas of Happy Songs For Happy People (2003) were practical applications of that theory.
Mogwai, formed in Glasgow around 1995, played (mostly) instrumental music. Guitarists Stuart Braithwaite and John Cummings (also on piano), drummer Martin Bulloch and bassist Dominic Aitchisin anchored their sound on atmospheric guitar sounds, ranging from celestial drones to hellish walls of distortions.

The early singles, the immature Tuner (Rock Action, 1996), a whispered lullay smothered in languid instrumental tones, Summer (Love Train, 1996) and New Paths To Helicon (Wurlitzer Jukebox, 1997), later collected on Ten Rapid (Jetset, 1997), revealed a band intent upon revisiting the "slo-core" and the desolate soundscapes of Slint, Codeine and Low, albeit with the intellectual and modernistic praxis of a Brian Eno. Their blissful, impressionistic ambience, seasoned with weird Pixies-ian guitar intros, is particularly effective in Summer (that alternates between tinkling xylophone melody and guitar fury), Angels vs Aliens (a maelstrom of guitar and keyboard noises), and Helicon 1 (a majestic melody played a` la Jimi Hendrix on distorted guitar notes).

The three-song EP 4 Satin (Chemikal Underground, 1997 - Jetset, 1998) announced a mature band of mature ambitions.

(Translation by Walter Consonni/ Tradotto da Walter Consonni) I Mogwai sono un quartetto scozzese, formatosi attorno al 1995, che si dedica (prevalentemente) alla musica strumentale. I chitarristi Stuart Braithwaite e John Cummings (anche pianista), il batterista Martin Bulloch ed il bassista Dominic Aitchisin legano il loro sound ad atmosferici suoni chitarristici, passando da celestiali suoni di cornamuse ad infernali muri di distorsioni.

I primi singoli, Tuner (Rock Action, 1996), Summer (Love Train, 1996) e New Paths To Helicon (Wurlitzer Jukebox, 1997), successivamente raccolti su Ten Rapid (Jetset, 1997), hanno svelato l'intento della band di rivistare i paesaggi sonori "slo-core" e desolati di Slint, Codeine e Low con la prassi intellettuale e modernista di un Brian Eno. La loro atmosfera gioiosa ed impressionista, condita con magiche introduzioni chitarristiche alla Pixies, è particolarmente efficace in Summer, Angels vs. Aliens e New Paths to Helicon 1.

L'EP di tre brani 4 Satin (Chemikal Underground, 1997) (Jetset, 1998) ha presentato una band matura e con ambizioni adulte.

With drummer Brendon O'Hare (of Teenage Funclub and Telstar Ponies fame) replacing Bulloch, and the addition of new member Barry Burns (flute, keyboards), Mogwai recorded their proper debut album, Young Team (Chemikal Underground, 1997), an even more experimental work that is heavily influenced by the "shoegazer" legacy and by the space-rock suites of Bardo Pond, as announced by the second half of opener Yes I Am A Long Way From Home, a psychedelic raga in diguise.
The album's highlights are the two lenghty tracks. The twelve-minute Like Herod, dedicated to their idols Slint, begins with insecure plucking and strumming that suddenly erupts in a spasmodic sequence of monster riffs. The idea is repeated one more time before the music is left to die slowly. The 16-minute Fear Satan takes off right away with roaring distorted guitars that lead a wild post-psychedelic freak-out. After ten minutes the clamor decays into a swampy flute-driven lattice of mystery and suspence, Unlike their progressive-rock forefathers, Mogwai prefers sudden reversals of mood rather than gradual metamorphoses.
The layered orchestration of Katrien is designed to achieve maximum psychological impact. With Portfolio pushes the envelope of the quiet/violent dichotomy by devastating a simple limping piano figure with a harsh wall of noise (that would remain one of the band's rare ventures into dissonance).
The melancholy detachment of R U Still In 2 It is obtained by blending together three strands of alienation: the tender folkish guitar notes, the funereal piano figures the guest vocalist's eerie spoken words. If the violence of their sudden outbursts points to neurosis, and the mood of the linear pieces hints at to manic depression, the glacial hypnosis of Tracy raises hopes of a forthcoming catharsis.

Brendon O'Hare is also the leader of Macrocosmica, a quartet whose seven-song debut album, Ad Astra (God Bless, 1997), draws inspiration from Fugazi's twisted hardcore, from Big Black's atonal neurosis, and from Girls Vs Boys' elegant claustrophobia for the abrasive riffs and angular rhythms of Rusty's Arms and A Horse Can Walk. The angry shout and granitic riff of Lamotta sound amateurish but already impressive, and the terrifying hailstorm of beats and distortions Orbit 48 delivers what the other songs promised. On the other hand, the six-minute psychedelic languor of I Am The Spaceship Digitalis mimicks June Of 44's Of Information And Belief. A derivative effort, but nonetheless rewarding.

The four-song EP Space Geek (God Bless, 1998) presents a more relaxed and accessible take on that virulent strain of post-punk.

The ubiquitous Brendon O'Hare also runs Fiend, a band created specifically to publish a trilogy of concept albums: Caledonian Gothic (God Bless, 1997), a claustrophobic and letargic ambient work inspired by Amon Duul, Caledonian Cosmic (God Bless, 1998), a work inspired by the cosmic riders of the 1970s (Paranoic Timeslip, The Birthplace Of Star), and Caledonian Mystic (God Bless, 1998), a more accessible collection of instrumentals (the 16-minute Forgotten Sea) and songs. O'Hare weaves less structured pieces that occasionally recall the heydays of psychedelic music.

(Translation by / Tradotto da Walter Consonni)

Con il batterista Brendon O'Hare (già famoso con i Teenage Funclub) al posto di Bulloch, e con l'aggiunta del nuovo membro Barry Burns (flauto, tastiere), i Mogwai hanno poi realizzato il loro vero e proprio album d'esordio, Young Team (Jetset, 1997 - Chemikal Underground, 1997), un lavoro persino più sperimentale che si presenta pesantemente influenzato dal retaggio degli "shoegazer" e dalle suites space-rock dei Bardo Pond.
L'apice dell'album sono due lunghi brani, Fear Satan (sedici minuti), un capolavoro di suoni delicati ed una metamorfosi graduale verso magie evocanti mistero e suspence, e Like Herod, dedicata ai loro idoli Slint.
La dinamica e la stumentazione di Katrien e R U Still In 2 It ipnotizzano, l'orchestrazione stratificata del primo raggiunge il massimo impatto psicologico, le figure di piano ed i gemiti ultraterreni del cantato del secondo riportano al periodo di maggior splendore del dark-punk.
L'ipnosi glaciale di brani come With Portfolio, Radar Maker, Tracy completa la loro arte della catarsi.
Il contributo di O'Hare non e` trascurabile: aveva gia` dimostrato con i Telstar Ponies la sua passione per il rock tedesco degli anni '70.

With O'Hare working only part-time (he has a parallel project called Macrocosmica), there followed two remix albums, Kicking A Dead Pig (Eye-Q,1998) and Fear Satan Remixes (Eye-Q, 1998), and the EP No Education=No Future (Chemikal Underground, 1998)

Mogwai's proper second album, Come On Die Young (Matador, 1999), also known as CODY, is a partial disappointment, as the impetus of the early music is mostly mute. Mogwai coins a format that works both as experimental compositions and as light entertainment.
However, their compositions rarely coalesce into a tight, focused song. Mogwai's music likes to wander, to drift, to dilute itself into myriad variations of its own theme. It is an art of small gestures, like the melodic guitar phrase woven around the psychedelic crescendo of Year 2000 Non-compliant Cardia,
It is also an art of what does not happen. Kappa is the musical equivalent of sexual impotence: the instruments prepare the climax for the melody to erupt, but instead the music restrains itself and the melody barely dusts itself off. All the noisy introduction, the piano lullaby, the martial drumming of the 9-minute Chocky do not lead anywhere.
The magical balance of Helps Both Ways may represent the band's method better than anything else: the limping blues and the Salvation-Army fanfare that propel it are so undermined by the execution that one hardly waits for anything to happen anymore. Music is just this unfinished business, this eternally floating atmosphere in which you mostly wait for something that you know will never happen.
A drawback is that, when the band doesn't find that magic balance, they tend to indulge in lengthy guitar-based minimalistic techniques bottowed from Sonic Youth: May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door (on a solemn waltz), the 9-minute Ex-Cowboy (in sideral crescendo), the 10-minute Christmas Steps (from quiet to explosive). It is here that Mogwai betrays inexperience and clumsiness.
The only ballad, Cody, would be a stand-out on any country album. If they can make more of these, Mogwai may find their true voice in conventional songs rather than in extended instrumentals.

(Translation by / Tradotto da Milena Ferrante)

Con O'Hare impegnato solo part-time (ha un progetto parallelo denominato Macroco smica), sono arrivati due album di remix, Kicking A Dead Pig (Eye-Q,1998) e Fe ar Satan Remixes (Eye-Q, 1998), e l'EP the No Education=No Future (Ch emikal Underground, 1998)

Il secondo album vero e proprio, Come On Die Young (Matador, 1999) offre una sintesi impeccabile delle loro ispirazioni. Al tempo stesso, Mogwai riescono a trovare un formato che funziona sia dal punto di vista sperimentale che come intrattenimento puro. In ogni caso, Š raro che le loro composizioni confluiscano in una forma canzone strutturata. La musica dei Mogwai tende a divagare senza una meta ben precisa,a diluirsi in una miriade di variazioni su uno stesso tema. E' un'arte di piccoli gesti, come la melodia chitarristica intrecciata attorno al crescendo psichedelico di Year 2000 Non-compliant Cardia,
E',inoltre, un'arte che non trova realizzazione di sŠ. Kappa Š l'equivalente musicale dell'impotenza sessuale: gli strumenti preparano il climax per l'esplosione della melodia, ma invece la musica Š come trattenuta e la melodia quasi segna da sola la propria condanna. Tutta l'introduzione noise, la ninnananna pianistica, il drumming marziale dei 9 minuti di Chocky non portano da nessuna parte.
Il magico equilibrio di Helps Both Ways rappresenta meglio di ogni altro la poetica della band:il blues zoppicante e la fanfara da esercito della salvezza che la mettono in moto sono talmente scardinati dall'esecuzione che non ci si aspetta quasi pi— che qualcosa possa accadere. La musica Š in fondo un business mai condotto a termine, un'atmosfera eternamente sospesa in cui perlopi— si attende qualcosa che, si sa, non accadr… mai.
Lo svantaggio Š che quando la band non riesce a raggiungere tale equilibrio magico, tende ad indulgere in estese tecniche minimalistiche centrate sulle chitarre prese a prestito dai Sonic Youth: May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door (su un valzer solenne), i 9 minuti di Ex-Cowboy (in un crescendo siderale),i 10 di Christmas Steps (dalla quiete all'esplosione). E' qui che i Mogwai tradiscono inesperienza e goffaggine.
L'unica ballata, Cody, potrebbe essere il pezzo di punta di qualsiasi disco country. Se procederanno in questa direzione, Mogwai potrebbero trovare la loro vera voce nella forma canzone piuttosto che in estesi strumentali.

Cody, the ballad from Come On Die Young, was the manifesto of a new phase in Mogwai's career. Three tracks of Mogwai's album The Rock Action (Matador, 2001) are slowly unfolding "ballads" (sung ballads); and they lead nowhere, although they do so in a very charming way. Take Me Somewhere Nice has soothing strings and a gentle piano to match the delicate melody whispered by the vocalist for a few seconds. The refrain of the guitar-driven Dial Revenge soars like a religious hymn. The brief closer, Secret Pint, contrasts catatonic chanting with petulant keyboards.
The eight-minute instrumental You Don't Know Jesus (stormy layers of hypnotic instrumental pulsations pierced by space guitar) and the nine-minute 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong (anthemic guitar and piano, delirious cymbals, dense strings, and four minutes of slow liquefaction and multi-voice wordless humming) showcase Mogwai's best elements (the emotional crescendos the delicate fabric of counterpoint) but also their limitations: pointless repetition that fails to reach a conclusion. The narrative as a strategy of continuously losing the thread.
There is, of course, an obvious objection to Mogwai's program: if they continue along this path, they'll spend ten years learning how to write the ballads that Bacharach was writing twenty years before they were even born. Mogwai are an obvious candidate to most overrated band of post-rock.

The EP My Father My King (Matador, 2001) is a 20-minute instrumental piece that sounds like a variation on Pink Floyd's psychedelic raga Careful With That Axe for burning guitar distortions at a brisk pace. After eight minutes the undulating trancey raga-like quality of the piece decays into a somnolent jazzy and gypsy calm, which in turn slowly coalesces into a vortex of loud quasi-doom riffs and distorted cosmic guitar solos.

Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap) and Stuart Braithwaite launched a side-project with the EP Sick Anchors (Lost Dog, 2002).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Anna LaRocca)

Cody era stato il manifesto di una nuova fase nella carriera dei Mogwai. Quattro pezzi di The Rock Action (Matador, 2001) sono "ballate" (ballate cantate) e non portano da nessuna parte, sebbene lo facciano in modo molto affascinante. Se continuano su questa strada, ci metteranno dieci anni a imparare a scrivere le ballate che Bacharach scriveva addirittura vent'anni prima che loro fossero nati. Take Me Somewhere Nice e' la meno "usa e getta". You Don't Know Jesus e 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong, i pezzi portanti, fanno mostra dei migliori requisiti dei Mogwai: la capacita' di raccontare come perdendo il filo, i crescendo toccanti, il sottile ordito di contrappunto. Abbiamo un candidato per il gruppo di post-rock piu' sopravvalutato.

Happy Songs For Happy People (Matador, 2003), a carefully orchestrated, organic, rational/mathematic work, abandons the pretentious and the trivial aspects of the former album's experiment with dub-balladry and returns to their most natural environment, the all-instrumental piece and the undulating dynamics. There is a lot more emphasis on the melody, and the rhythmic excursion tends to follow a predictable course. In a sense, this is Mogwai's "mainstream" album. (The spelling and grammatical mistakes of the titles are Mogwai's). A soaring mellotron-like melody emerging from the hypnotic texture of a guitar shuffle in Hunted By A Freak, the dark and low requiem-like dirge of a church organ drowned in the ghostly theme of the strings in Moses I Amn't, the tender lullaby electrocuted by wavering drones in Kids Will Be Skeletons, the giant maelstrom that devours the hummed litany of Killing All The Flies, are all signs of Mogwai's reach maturity. They recycle the same cliches of the previous albums, namely the slow build-up of rhythm and melody (which is, by now, a rather trivial expedient), but here they speculate on the beauty of the melody, rather than on the sensational, clashing peak of sounds.
Ratts of the Capital, the only lengthy piece (eight minutes), boasts the most dense and majestic crescendo, supported by a truculent groove worthy of stoner-rock.
The group fails to capitalize on some of the best ideas, such as Golden Porsche's ambient piano melody in slow motion and wrapped in gentle tides of chamber strings, or the insistent piano strumming set to industrial beats of I Know You Are But What Am I?.
There is no innovation, and there is no boldness. But this is Mogwai's most polished and intelligible presentation of their aesthetics.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Luca Battistini)

Happy Songs For Happy People (Matador, 2003), un lavoro orchestrato con attenzione, organico, razionale/matematico abbandona gli aspetti pretenziosi e banali che contraddistinguevano l'album precedente (le ballate dub), ritornando al loro habitat piu' naturale, i pezzi interamente strumentali e le dinamiche ondulanti. I Mogwai mettono molta piu' enfasi sulla melodia, e le ritmiche tendono a seguire un corso prevedibile. In un certo senso, questo e' l'album "mainstream" dei Mogwai. (Gli errori ortografici e grammaticali dei titoli sono dei Mogwai). Una melodia (tipo mellotron) che emerge dalla tessitura ipnotica di chitarra in Hunted By A Freak, il lamento funebre dark (una specie di requiem) di un organo da chiesa affogato nel tema spettrale degli archi in Moses I Amn't, la tenera ninnananna fulminata da droni tentennanti in Kids Will Be Skeletons, il maelstrom gigante che divora la litania canticchiata di Killing All The Flies: sono tutti segni della maturita' raggiunta. I Mogwai riciclano gli stessi cliche' dei dischi precedenti, e cioe' il lento accumularsi di ritmo e melodia (espediente ormai abbastanza banale), ma qui speculano sulla bellezza della melodia piuttosto che su un sensazionale picco dei suoni.
Ratts of the Capital, l'unico brano lungo (otto minuti), vanta il crescendo piu' compatto e maestoso, supportato da un groove truculento degno dello stoner-rock.
Il gruppo non riesce a capitalizzare alcune delle idee migliori, come ad esempio la melodia di Golden Porsche, un pianoforte ambient rallentato e avvolto in flussi gentili di archi da camera, o gli strimpellii ostinati di pianoforte (su beat industrial) di I Know You Are But What Am I?.
Non c'e' innovazione, e non c'e' audacia. Ma e' la presentazione piu' raffinata e intellegibile dell'estetica dei Mogwai.

Government Commissions (Matador, 2005). compiles tracks from five sessions recorded for BBC shows between 1996 and 2003.

Mr Beast (Matador, 2006) marked the first major change in format, as Mogwai opted for concise instead of sprawling compositions, and for sleek instead of tumultuous sound, as if they wanted to coin a radio-friendly version of post-rock. The self-referential Auto Rock and the mildly amusing Friends Of The Night represented the middle ground between the brutal drama of Folk Death 95, Travel Is Dangerous, Glasgow Mega-Snake, and the stately calm of Acid Food, I Choose Horses, We're No Here. However calculated, the brevity and the vocals detracted from the emotional power of the music.

The Hawk Is Howling (2008), their first all-instrumental album, stood out as one of their most aggressive and intense works (Batcat). However, it also features The Sun Smells Too Loud that, in a parallel universe, is basically a lounge ballad.

The four-song EP Earth Division (Sup Pop, 2011) was a teaser, offering four relatively straightforward songs (even the folkish elegy Hound Of Winter); possibly their most lightweight offering.

Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will (Sub Pop, 2011) is torn between bursts of romantic pathos and austere rhythmic experiments. When the center of mass falls towards the former, Mogwai unleashes the symphonic crescendo of White Noise, and the Pink Floydf-ian apotheosis of Death Rays; pieces that represent a career's peak of bombast. Instead, the moribund threnody of Mexican Grand Prix evokes both Neu and Suicide. However, other than the nocturnal piano and guitar meditation of Letters To The Metro, most of the instrumentals recycle old tricks, such as interrupted minimalist repetition, orgies of crashing cymbals, and stereotypical surges/decays of sound. Ome such dejavu, You're Lionel Richie, would have sufficed. And the album includes some truly awful pieces, particularly the ones that lean towards shoegaze-ing guitar noise.

Special Moves (Rock Action, 2010) documents their live performances.

A Wrenched Virile Lore (Sub Pop, 2012) collects remixes.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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