"Further in the tape I came across another part which made me throw my headphones off - I couldn't believe what I heard" - 'Replenish'
Mogwai's eighth studio album finds the Glaswegian five-piece on fine form. Rave Tapes doesn't seek to reinvent their sound but instead continues to build on what was a pretty solid template to begin with. Whilst their last proper studio record was 2011's Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, the band have been busy with producing soundtracks - first for the Zidane documentary and more recently French vampire drama Les Revenants. It's an obvious fit for a band that specialises in incredibly atmospheric music as grand as it is emotive.
Rave Tapes opens in a relatively subdued fashion with 'Heard About You Last Night' a subtle slow burner. Quiet, echoing chimes greet the ears before the arpeggiated chords of a guitar are introduced and soft percussion added. It's a rather beautiful piece, the chimes giving the track a certain optimism. 'Heard About You Last Night' is probably one of the quieter tracks of Mogwai's career and only really hints at the intensity that they are capable of during its final moments.
'Simon Ferocious' continues to build up from where the previous track left off, this time utilising much more electronic elements starting with a keyboard melody, which is soon replaced by a buzzsaw synth sound. The drums are a little louder, the guitars are let loose just a little bit more, and it begins to feel like we are being taken somewhere - although it's unclear what will greet us when we get there. The first two tracks aren't necessarily dark, but there is a haunting quality to them. 'Heard About You Last night' is introduced with a faint ghost of a voice which can certainly unsettle you if you're not expecting it.
The brooding percussion and synthesiser combo of 'Remurdered' quickly reveal that Rave Tapes is about to get a little darker. The early part of the track is inter-cut with brief snippets of guitar, that help to act as a counterpoint to the growing menace of the electronic instruments. Then halfway through the track the two combine and suddenly Mogwai seem to be moving away from the loftiness of post-rock and down to the dirt and grime of the dancefloor. It's not particularly loud or ferocious, but there is an intensity that really makes 'Remurdered' stand out as an album highlight.
It's clear that their work on the Zidane and Les Revenants soundtracks has imbued their work with a more cinematic edge. The songs on Rave Tapes seem to be far more visceral than before - you can almost picture the scenes that each track could be soundtracking. Songs like 'Deesh' manage to balance the various instruments, particularly the keyboards and guitars perfectly, creating sonic soundscapes worthy of cinematic treatment. 'Deesh' in particular sounds like it could have easily been a cut from Clint Mansell's Moon soundtrack. Meanwhile tracks like 'Master Card' and 'Blues Hour' are more reminiscent of older Mogwai material - certainly they operate at the 'rockier' end of the spectrum.
Whilst Rave Tapes doesn't really do anything new, it would be unfair to accuse Mogwai of complacency. After eight full length records they haven't once missed the mark, and this is down to a process of writing and recording that allows them to continually build upon what already exists. Each record provides exactly what you want (and a little bit more) and this should be applauded. Whether you're a seasoned fan or only just discovering the band for the first time Rave Tapes deserves a spot in your collection.