Mogwai has just released their new album, Atomic, while I’m still reeling from 2014’s Rave Tapes.
Mogwai Atomic Review
At this point in the Mogwai cycle, I feel like most fans are still hoping for a return to the guitar-heavy Mogwai of old, but ever since Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, it seems the Scottish quartet has fully embraced a new sound – one that is heavy on the synthesizers and light on the guitars.
Of course, this being Mogwai, the sound coming off of Atomic is virtuosic and refined, and so more mature than Rave Tapes. Atomic is all Mogwai, and even though they may not be wailing on guitars, the Mogwai of Old still shines through on some choice tracks.
The whole shebang kicks off with the tender, hopeful Ether, split into two parts – one of buildup and one of crescendo. Of particular interest to me in this song is the drum beat in the first half of the song, seemingly mimicking the beat of a human heart.
Then we segue into the industrial cacophony that is SCRAM – a slow kaleidoscope of sound that rolls and revolves ever higher. SCRAM makes ample use of Barry Burns’ evolving touch with the synthesizer – something I appreciate much more on the track “U-235”, where the sound comes together in a sound that reminds me of the music of Carbon Based Lifeforms, but with a more pronounced edge lurking just below the surface.
Here you really get a taste of that Old Mogwai, in the way the whole track sort of flows within and through itself. Slightly changing, ever a shadow of itself.
“Little Boy” and “Are You A Dancer” sound like they’re actually ripped off of Hawk is Howling, which is fucking amazing, considering the sounds you can find on that album. But then again, there’s a slightly more mature sound to these tracks. Clearly, this isn’t the Mogwai of eight years ago, but there’s some of that nostalgia shining through all the same.
As the sound goes from hopeful to quietly raging to downright melancholy, you get a sense of just how fitting the album name Atomic is. Despite the fact that the music on this album was made to complement the film Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise, the whole album could stand apart as a portrait of a process, or a reaction. The final track, Fat Man, captures this perfectly. From a slow beginning of piano notes that build to the synth and drums at about three minutes in, it’s a Mogwai sound that could very well be the story of Mogwai. What begins with a classic approach soon expands and contorts to explore other possibilities, the tone mutating from one of quiet beauty to chaos and finally to silence.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: Hot damn.
Atomic is available as a CD or LP from Temporary Residence, or as a digital download on iTunes. What the Hell are you waiting for? At just over 48 minutes long, it’s probably the most enjoyable 48 minutes I’ve ever spent listening to music. My recommendation? Go buy it.