By Karsten Walter (@boc_maxima)
Mogwai are, and always have been, a band that doesn’t make music seeking to satisfy the requirements and expectations of fans or a particular style/genre of music. Instead, they’ve always been a band who create an album in exactly the manner and approach they want to, and aren’t afraid to evolve their sound in an alternative way to their last release. Their new LP, Every Country’s Sun, is further proof of that.
The band first revealed the album by playing it in full at a surprise set at Primavera Sound in Barcelona in June. The LP is the first of Mogwai’s to be produced by legendary engineer Dave Fridmann since their second record, Rock Action, and the influence he has had on it is evident.
Since 2011’s Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, the Scottish band have followed a noticeable change in tone and mood with their music, straying away from the melancholy sounds of Mogwai Young Team and respecting a more extravagant and grand sound which, if anything, inspires rather than weakens the listener. The band are for the most part instrumental but have delved into modern pop songwriting since their second album and on Every Country’s Sun, the track Party in the Dark is the most outright pop song they’ve written yet. Featuring rarely-heard Stuart Braithwaite vocals over instrumentation that is reminiscent of bands such as The Cure and The Jesus and Mary Chain, it doesn’t quite stick as many of the other tracks do, but it’s a worthwhile example of the shift in musical approach from the band.
Brain Sweeties is where the album really seems to take shape, and find itself. The emphatic bassline of the track carries it more than the actual synth-led melody line does, and the slow and meditative rhythm adds to the increased pressure of the track. The strongest piece on the album, Crossing the Road Material is an epic and thrilling track that hits the spot. It’s Mogwai at their best, and is easily one of their best to date, and would feel at home in their early discography. The grand and inspiring chorus is led by a high-pitched melody that just keeps rising in what is one of the band’s best progressions yet. It eventually descends to a calming climax, and gives the listener goosebumps like any good post-rock piece should.
aka 47 is another track that is reminiscent of the band’s previous discography, a slow and private number, that makes fantastic use of the synths the Scottish band have become so familiar with in the past decade. Although different to many other tracks on the LP, it doesn’t feel out of place, even when neighbouring two straight post-rock pieces that Mogwai are renowned for. The other one of these tracks is 20 Size, a heavy and hard-hitting recording with a slow yet fierce guitar melody carrying it, surrounded by the accomplished fills of drummer Martin Bulloch. It ends abruptly but in the best way it could.
The band return to a reserved output with Don’t Believe the Fife; that is until the energetic and raw chords of Stuart Braithwaite. Mogwai have always been fantastic at recognising the dynamic contrast between quiet and loud, and interweaving the two into a track effectively. This track is the perfect example, seeming at first like another minimal synth piece, before exploding into an emotive, powerful and compelling cacophony of sound. By far the most aggressive piece on the album is Battered At a Scramble, which features the band thrashing their instruments in a fashion that’s familiar to their early records. The drums are loud and messy and the guitar screeches like an animal. Mogwai don’t rest with this on the next track, Old Poisons, which equally sounds like the Scots having their way with their instruments. The dynamic contrast to earlier tracks is astounding, and shows the large palette of sounds that Mogwai can put to their use.
The closing track, the title track is testament to this. It ends on a brutal note, that on first listen reminds the listener of bands such as Deafhaven (which may not come as a surprise to some after their cover of Punk Rock and CODY by Mogwai). It’s the perfect way to show how Every Country’s Sun is able to attain both the hymnal and beautiful track in those such as Coolverine, but still stay savage as they have been in the past.
Albeit not the band’s defining work, or the best flowing or most coherent one, Every Country’s Sun is wonderful proof of Mogwai’s signature sound being still being developed decades on from their debut in the post-rock world.