Album Review: Rave Tapes by Mogwai

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The first utterances of noise on Rave Tapes emerge slowly from silence; the hypnotizing tones could have been going on for hours, days even, before they ascended to an audible level. The meandering instrumentals of their newest album reflect the enigmatic nature of a group that, much like the opening track, seem infinite. With their 8th LP, Mogwai has simply raised the volume of their never-ending post-rock loud enough for us to hear again.

Mogwai is a group that’s been creating music together since 1995; since then, they’ve churned out an album just about every two years with fascinating consistency. It seems the five-piece from Glasgow, Scotland have no shortage of inspiration, and they’ve added some refreshing new elements to their instrumental sound with their latest effort.

Don’t let the name fool you — Rave Tapes is not as immediate as the name suggests; this is a record that favors long, thoughtful walks rather than the dance floor. The beginning of the album offers a dense world of pulsing synths and guitars that mix together in a palpable cloud that surrounds your ears. An early standout is “Remurdered,” which creates an eerie vibe with a lo-fi loop that sounds like it could be from an old-school Castlevania game (I mean that in the best way possible); it’s apparent that Mogwai feel perfectly at home in the darkness, and once the beat kicks in, your mind is left with no choice but to join them. This is mood music through and through.

The first sounds of a human voice emerge mid-way through the album on “Repelish,” a strange spoken-word meditation on the satanic subliminal messages in Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” That will hardly serve as a respite for anyone looking for a chorus or hook, though. While their earlier material included more experimentation with vocals, their latter years have found them focusing almost exclusively on instrumental work. Sure, this approach could weed-out potential fans, because Rave Tapes requires more patience than many music fans are willing to offer, but if you allow them to, Mogwai are adept at evoking emotions with swelling musicianship.

As soon as you grow comfortable with this formula, though, “Blues Hour” arises from the fog and cuts through with pensive vocals. “We’ll leave this place / just like we found it,” the singer repeats, singing of a path without a destination. This track is one of the undeniable standouts from the album, as it encompasses the journey of Rave Tapes―a road with no destination; a state of mind that’s content with simply existing.

As the last dispatches from a robotic vocoder ring out on “The Lord Is Out Of Control,” Rave Tapes ends as subtly as it began. It’s an album that will sweep you up in a spiral of guitars, leaving you right back where you started when it’s running-time has elapsed; though that might not appeal to every music listener, those with patience will be rewarded by the end of the record.

Yet, even as the songs end, there’s no reason to think their soundwaves don’t continue wandering on forever.

Rave Music is now available to stream in its entirety on Soundcloud.

[photo via Think Hotels]

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