You can click the button at the top right corner to listen to music from this album while you read the review.
I have always been one to heed the advice, "Never judge a book by its cover." Typically this advice can be extremely helpful when wanting to foster an open mind regarding literature, films and in this case, music. Scottish post-rock outfit, Mogwai, has caused me to challenge myself with this notion with their most recent release Rave Tapes, the band's eight-studio album. The view of the record is such a departure from anything that we've seen from these guys over the past few years, but surprisingly, I am not upset by the shifts in aesthetics, or the change in musicality.
The band, like many others have chosen to take a large step out of their comfort zone with this record, and to be honest, it is a breath of fresh air. When first cueing the record, I was a bit skeptical, when the opening notes of "Heard What You Did Last Night" came across the sound system. I must confess, I was really hoping to hear some guitar/riff driven licks that I'd come accustomed to hearing from Mogwai, but was pleasantly surprised with the shift. As the album progresses "Simon Ferocious" contains some of those guitar licks buried behind some interesting drumbeats and electronic sampling. Regardless of this shift, it is apparent that the band chose to create all these soundscapes with the use of real musicians instead of using pre-programmed samples used by EDM musicians. This makes the track more accessible to both EDM and post-rock fans, bridging the gap between both genres.
The following track "Remurdered" is something that would have appeared on the original Tron film soundtrack. Obviously, there are some small tastes of what we heard from Daft Punk's efforts for Tron: Legacy, but with a Mogwai flair. Much like the previous track, there is some interesting synth work on this track, but the guitar riffs are what make it so good. To me, the next track, "Hexon Bogon" might be the best on the record. Despite the fact that the song is so short, musically, this is an intense, emotional ride where Mogwai's trademark sound is most prevalent on the record. Obviously, there is a small taste of where post-rock is going, and with the swell of guitar licks and filters, it sounds like the genre is progressing into a beautiful, horizon of experimentation. However, that being said, "Repelish," is an odd follow up to the track as this is the first Mogwai track that I've heard in a while that contains any sort of words or lyrics. Obviously I don't want to spoil it for you, but listen closely to these two tracks together. The lyricist provides some though-provoking commentary regarding rock music.
This album is a departure from Mogwai's previous sound, in a good way.
With all that being said, the latter part of the record seems to ebbs and flow between the guitar-driven tracks and the synth laden, beautiful mess that Mogwai has created. Each song is dripping with gooey-synth, tribal-like drumbeats and acid-trip guitar riffs. "Master Card" contains some of these examples, but it is mostly heard on "Deesh" where the soundscapes don't crescendo, but become more full before the song ends rather abruptly. "Blue Hour" was another surprise for me on this record. Again, Mogwai isn't known for putting lyrics in their music, but here the listener is met with a soothing voice akin to Elliott Smith. The song is deeply emotional and the sounds created by the band that swirl around the vocal are hauntingly ethereal and absolutely gorgeous. As the album comes to a close, "No Medicine For Regret" flows into more gooey synth that can be heard in a lot of earlier Black Moth Super Rainbow releases, but not in such a spastic way. The electronics and beats in the track are mesmerizing and it feels like there should be a visual element to the song, particularly for those that want to go on a brief acid trip. Following this, the final track on the record, "The Lord Is Out Of Control" definitely feels like a continuation of the previous track, with a lot more melting soundscapes. Ultimately this sound is a fitting closer to what many might consider a surreal effort from these Scottish blokes.
Ultimately, the album is a testament to where post-rock is at as a genre right now. There is some experimentation coming into the genre, which is keeping it fresh. There are lyrics in songs only when there needs to be, and the riffs swell and swirl into curious swells and depressions. Mogwai has down well to branch out into other soundscapes to make a positively great album. Expect to see this album in a lot of Top Ten album lists for 2014.