Mogwai impresses, cements legacy with ‘A Wrenched Virile Lore’
Published: Monday, December 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 10, 2012 00:12
Mogwai is one of those bands that unequivocally sound like themselves. Although they have inspired and influenced legions of followers and imitators, after nearly 20 years and seven studio albums, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
With their 1997 debut album "Young Team," the Scottish quintet established their quiet-loud-quiet formula for creating dynamic, contrasting, post-rock soundscapes.
Their rising, dynastic music can hang in the air like a mist or come crashing down like a tsunami’s wave.
Their sound entrances listeners with its bewitching, ethereal beginnings and then catches them off balance by abruptly rising into a full-on sonic assault of thundering density.
Throughout the course of the group’s next half-dozen LPs, a handful of EPs and several film soundtrack contributions, they have proven there are no boundaries to the unique, unchartered territories they are continually exploring.
"Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will," Mogwai’s most recent studio effort, found the group working again with veteran producer Paul Savage, who helped craft the idiomatic sound of their debut. Throughout its 10 tracks, "Hardcore" was a revisit to the band’s roots, but it still managed to drop in a few surprises along the way.
In the spirit of "Kicking A Dead Pig," a remix record of "Young Team," the group has just released "A Wrenched Virile Lore," an arresting re-imagining of "Hardcore’s" offerings.
The album is the band’s second on their recently minted contract with Seattle-based label Sup Pop, which the group signed with after leaving Matador Records in 2010.
The remix album, which gets its title from a rearranging of the letters of "Hardcore," features contributions from a unique cross-section of musicians taking turns dissecting and reassembling the album to present it in a new, distinctive light.
After taking themselves way too seriously for a couple of albums ("The Hawk is Howling" and "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait," their original soundtrack to a French football documentary), and finally relaxing with "Hardcore," Mogwai continues to revel previously hidden facets of its personality.
Sometimes a second pair of eyes is needed to point out the nuances and subtleties of a work of art, and this is exactly the case with the hand-selected remixers on "A Wrenched Virile Lore."
The compilation begins with Godflesh vocalist Justin K. Broadrick’s reshaped version of "George Square Thatcher Death Party," which he distills into a dark, moody pulse compared to the anthemic original version.
This is followed by the metallic computer rave-up that is Klad Hest’s "Mogwai is My Dick," a remix of "Rano Pano." Hest’s mix turns the track into a party and carries it about 1,000 miles away from the austere dissonance of the source material.
Other highlights include Zombi’s reworking of "Letters To The Metro," in which he transforms the original’s meandering piano into layered waves of synths and adds a pounding drum machine.
"A Wrenched Virile Lore" marks what is probably the first entry with the Mogwai moniker that contains songs someone might actually want to dance to, as opposed to just being engulfed by them.
A lot of the moments on "Kicking A Dead Pig," while interesting and enjoyable, came off sounding like experiments or fragments of sound collages, and its hip-hop-oriented moments sound displaced, lodged between the walls of sound.
For a veteran band with an established sound, to release a such a variant – and at times even danceable – record could have been a risky decision.
Here, Mogwai handles it masterfully.
This album shows they are having fun and are still looking to take their craft in new directions.
It also goes a long way toward proving the point that great art can be made great again and again, just by viewing it in a new context, through a different lens.