With a career that has expanded beyond the realm of albums, Mogwai is no stranger to the instrumental rock scene. The 17-year post-rock veterans from Glasgow, Scotland have done it all, whether it’s putting out numerous albums or creating soundtracks for films and television. All the while, the band has stayed true to the compelling ballad sounds that have become the band’s signature. On their new album, “Rave Tapes,” nothing much has changed, as the band chooses to stick to their familiar guns, utilizing the guitar and piano sounds and progressions that are similar to many of their past works.
With a title like “Rave Tapes,” it’s easy to assume the album’s tracks will be filled with electronic sounds. Surprisingly, this is not the case. Only three songs on the album have a strong electronic presence; one of them, “Simon Ferocious,” is filled to the brim with deep saws and light-hearted synths, on top of Martin Bulloch’s mesmerizing drumming.
Out of the entire album, “Remurdered” is the only song which best blends together sounds from the band’s previous albums and soundtracks with electronic elements. Mogwai ventures into unique sounds that differentiate the track from the music and tones of their past. Layers of eerie synths and lo-fi keys come together beautifully with powerful guitar riffs throughout the whole song, over electric kick drums and smashing snares. “Remurdered” is an embodiment of Mogwai’s growth — but this is the only song in which their growth is apparent.
Throughout the rest of the album, Mogwai do what they do best, sticking to the progressive, hard-hitting, eerie rock sounds that have defined them over the past 17 years. Many of the songs on “Rave Tapes” are similar to 2011’s “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” — especially “Hexon Bogon” and “Master Card,” as both contain escalating guitar riffs. Each riff grows in intensity, and pounding drum kits resemble songs like “San Pedro.”
Taking notes from the soundtracks Mogwai has done in the past, the song “Blues Hour” slows down the pace of the album. The beautiful track is backed by soft drumming and haunting vocals. Once the song reaches its bridge, subtle guitar melodies and gentle keys turn into powerful riffs and intense saws, creating a harmonious and eerie track that could belong on Mogwai’s latest soundtrack, 2013’s “Les Revenants.” These songs capture Mogwai’s signature sound, even though it’s a sound that has been repeated many times before.
“Rave Tapes” is nothing new from the Glasgow band, nor is it a standout album from their discography. Instead, it blends in perfectly with past albums “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” and “Mr. Beast.” Although Mogwai executes each song beautifully and with precision, the band’s systematic approach to “Rave Tapes” does nothing to make the album stand out from the rest of its extensive catalog, with the exception of “Remurdered.” The album is definitely worth a listen, especially for those who have never listened to Mogwai. For those who know of the band, be warned: If you’ve listened to any of Mogwai’s past albums or soundtracks, then “Rave Tapes” is something you’ve already heard.
Rating: 3 stars