Tuesday, December 7

Mogwai Review: As the Love Continues – extremely loud and incredibly close | Mogwai

“Warning: this performance contains flickering images ”, the waiting page shines for Mogwaiconcert online. I remember the most intense show I saw in my life, which was theirs. They were a new band at the time, formed in Glasgow; pioneers of a new style called post-rock, promoting their 1997 debut album, Mogwai Youth Team. Playing instrumental tracks that abruptly moved from silence to volume, a style that would become their trademark, they smashed their guitars and hit the stompboxes while blasting white lights at the audience.

I remember closing my eyes tightly, immersing myself among strangers in the fabulous noise. I try this technique again almost a quarter century later, but full immersion is difficult when you are on a couch, the fire is on, and the cat is still pacing. Synth gamer Barry Burns nails another aspect of the weirdness of seeing Mogwai at home, in a tweet just before the livestream begins. It is a post that shows how loved they are as a live entity: “This is your chance to speak during an entire Mogwai concert and not get angry looks.”

Tonight’s concert shows the band’s 10th album, As love goes on, performed in its entirety and filmed by a longtime collaborator Antony crook (The performance itself is pre-recorded, but is released to fans in different countries at the same time.) The LP was made last summer, not in the United States as planned, with its producer, Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips), but in a converted church in Worcestershire. Stuart Braithwaite has said it was a warm and positive record: While chaos reigned in the rest of the world, Fridmann in Cassadaga, New York state, looms over the proceedings at Zoom. like a benevolent indie Big Brother.

They take us to the Tramway in Glasgow, a warehouse with brick walls and dim lighting, which acts as a good visual cue for the expansive, underground sound of Mogwai. They launch with a track named after a phrase uttered by Blanck Mass’s Benjamin John Power, a friend of the band, in his sleep: To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth. Its familiar minor key cyclic chord progressions slowly unfold, arriving like gentle, sunlit tides.

It is puzzling to experience Mogwai through film. You don’t go to their concerts to scrutinize them as individuals (although the black-shirted, marble-headed Braithwaite has a peculiar charisma). At the beginning of Midnight Flit, as a doomy bassline rises, Crook fires at the band from below like creatures in a fish tank. Rapidly flashing colored lights are also used generously, but they don’t have the same effect on a screen.

Mogwai by Tram, Glasgow.
Mogwai by Tram, Glasgow. Photography: Grant Finlay

You are sorry for Mogwai. They make music so that the bodies in mass respond in a room. As the concert progresses, it hurts to watch live music with others more than it has in weeks (and it has been hurting). This feeling is rarer in Dry fantasy, an epic chilling synth that carries echoes of the cure Disintegration LP and Fuck Off Money, in which Burns uses a softube vocoder to process voices in widescreen sad robot mode. The track then ascends in layers of cautious and startled optimism; upbeat music when listened to and shared in community.

As love goes on However, not everything is intense music. It contains more mainstream rockers, like Ceiling Granny (Mogwai hasn’t lost its fondness for silly song titles) and a recent single. Ritchie sacramento, a tribute to deceased friends, including David Berman of Silver Jews. Braithwaite makes one of his rare places to sing here, his simple voice delivering the chorus – “everything is gone, everything is gone” – with fragile power. Other tracks (Drive the Nail; Pat spots) float around a bit, but when the encore comes, it’s reminded of what Mogwai does best.

Like Herod, a fan favorite since 1997, he arrives as an impressive and heavy presence from the past. His intricate opening guitar passages sound more knotty and jarring than ever, and strangely perfect on this cold night in the middle of a pandemic. Sometimes music is more fun reflecting the times than repelling them.

It calms almost to silence, and then the sonic onslaught begins, and for a moment, hitting my head with a loud beat, I’m in a crowded room, feeling the heat and sweat of what music can do. I can almost taste it. When the moment calls for it, Mogwai will still take you there.


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