As The Love Continues

With their tenth album, Scottish post-rockers Mogwai are still finding little corners to experiment with, finds Tom Coles

Mogwai’s traditional indirectness – their penchant for naming predominantly instrumental tracks after obscure references or with dense layers of irony – is gleefully flaunted on As The Love Continues, when a voiceover calmly reads the title of the opening track. The remainder unfurls in typical Mogwai fashion, but as an opening remark it sticks out as a deliberate counter to their established style: “To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth”.

Directness isn’t much of a theme here, but it does set up how the band’s traditional approaches are gently massaged through the record. This instance showcases a self-referential and playful theme, which goes some way to set the tone. Their tenth record isn’t a complete aesthetic shift like 2014’s heavily electronic Rave Tapes was, but does show them tinkering with their methods, stripping back to basics and then re-adding some unexpected sounds to evoke a variety of moods.

The record is underpinned by the simplistic, lax drum grooves, rock beats played at medium tempos without much variation, taking the pulse of psych or dance music and transposing it to a washy post-rock haze. This gives a lot of space for them to try some weird sounds and variations: electronic bleeps on ‘Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever’ or the sweeping strings of ‘Midnight Flit’ stir up a whole spectrum of emotions using totally different palettes, anchored by the common pulse. At the edge of all of these, the sound is sometimes a little distorted, wobbly or unclear. They’ve employed a little noise rock before on vintage tracks like ‘I Love you, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School’, but previously always as an assault; now it’s become a little flourish.

This lands them with a record that’s impressively cohesive and outright weird at times, flirting with all the styles the’ve worked with over the years. The temptation for Mogwai has been to make smoother, calmer music recently, more in line with their soundtrack work. This record seems to fly in the face of that. But they’ve clearly learned a lot from their moody soundscapes, even if they break from the ambience by employing the cut and thrust of their earlier rock work, retaining momentum, lending urgency to these ideas and textures.

Mogwai’s attitude towards experimentalism shows in the darker corners, the nooks and crannies of their sound where little glow worms of ideas grow and decay. Elsewhere this is well-orchestrated, subtle and playful, with the confidence to indulge both themselves and the audience.

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