REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Not much raving but there's comedown-abating beauty asunder on Mogwai's latest LP

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Workhorse post-rock Glaswegians Mogwai aren't known for many (if any) missteps in their near two-decade career and happily eighth album-proper ‘Rave Tapes’ rocks no boat as they rave gracefully across ten tracks of wonderful downbeat melancholy 


Mogwai - Rave Tapes (OUT 20TH JANUARY)

  The album title aside there’s initially little herein that would immediately bring to mind a sweaty dancefloor, opener
'Heard About You Last Night' instead drifting in on a gentle keyboard refrain that's not dissimilar from the opening of last year's thoroughly splendid soundtrack for French zombie TV-drama
Les Revenants (they'd already done football with 2006's
Zidane soundtrack so zombies were a somewhat logical next step...) and finds the band cruising in downbeat mode; languid guitar riff and pulsing bass punctuating the layers of synths, with glow sticks seemingly stuck in pockets. Second song
'Simon Ferocious' wobbles in on
Boards Of Canada synths before kicking into Krautrock groove, again bass and synth-driven with some teases of scratchy white-noise guitar but never really threatening enough to warrant the
ferocious of its moniker and it’s only on
‘Remurdered’ that the rave starts to stir. Initially all brooding menace of muted guitar and wandering synth, the song builds and gradually descends into some 8-bit wonkyness that recalls
Errors (from the
Mogwai’s own Rock Action Records no less) or the frenetic live-band Warp-isms of
Three Trapped Tigers, and with it, head and shoulder nods aplenty. Which is swiftly diffused by the guitar-led thwack of
'Hexon Bogon'. Cut from the same cloth as
Mr Beast's
'Glasgow Mega-Snake' and with title seemingly lifted from the vaults of
Aphex Twin, the song immediately conjures an image of the band swaying in time with the attack and bite of the riffs and the glorious white-noise ascent of ages yore. If there’s any moderate misstep it’s the spoken word narrative of
‘Repelish’ that doesn't hit the giddy heights of
Iggy Pop's star turn on
Come On Die Young’s superlative
'Punk Rock' or the stabbing guitar and off-kilter rhythms of
‘Master Card’ that nevertheless feel fairly flat dynamically. Happily the throbbing bass that opens
‘Deesh’ signals both the start of the post-rave comedown and its cure; its beautifully lazy ascending keyboard refrain and pulsating waves of distortion paving the way for the loveliest thing the band have done in years, the aptly-titled
‘Blues Hour’. Somewhat of a sister-piece to 1999's '
Cody' it consists of little more than gentle guitar strum, simple piano and Stuart Braithwaite's doubled sleepy whisper of a vocal and reminds you just how easily they can slip gears out of affirming post-rock and into downbeat slowcore and in doing so beat the likes of
Low and
Codeine at their own game. By the time the Helicon-esque apocalyptic guitar kicks in at the near-four minute mark I'm slack-jawed and never has lyrical bleakness
(“train lines going nowhere, no destination found”) felt so comforting. It’s a near-career peak but the closing double punch of
‘No Medicine For Regret’ (a beautiful wash of guitar distortion and a hopelessly optimistic synth refrain) and
‘The Lord Is Out Of Control’ (a doom-laden organ and the mournful vocoder of
Rock Action’s ‘2 Rights Make 1 Wrong’ that’s the antithesis of
Daft Punk’s mindless chirpiness) are none too shabby themselves. So false advertising be damned. There may be no actual raving going on in
“Rave Tapes’ but the album is yet further proof that Mogwai don’t believe in diminishing returns in any sense of the word. Long may they rave.