25 years on from the release of their debut single, what could we possibly expect from another new Mogwai album? It’s become something of a cliché to state how consistent the Scottish group are, however over time, their ability to carry on producing such high-quality output becomes all the more remarkable as is their way of never massively departing from what is undeniably a recognisable Mogwai sound, while always managing to keep things fresh and take subtle musical detours.
Perhaps a more accurate perception of the band’s form is to observe that the last ten years have produced what is arguably their finest albums, from 2011’s stunning Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, 2014’s equally misleadingly titled Rave Tapes, to 2017’s dazzling Every Country’s Sun. This time around, with lockdown restrictions imposed on the UK, the band were forced to abandon their original plans for recording what would become their 10th studio LP, and switch to working remotely on their separate parts, with producer Dave Fridmann at the helm. The result is another wondrous addition to Stuart Braithwaite and co’s arsenal of music.
To these ears, Mogwai has always made music, which over time has come to define the sound of Glasgow, capturing the sense of beauty and desolation that comes with the grim weather. As The Love Continues keeps the wheel turning admirably, providing a post-covid-soundtrack embedded with a sense of comfort and escapism amongst the sorrow and turmoil. This may indeed be the Scottish outfit’s most positive offering yet.
Weaving optimism around the ominous, with warm spells unfurling around the melancholy atmosphere, the opening ‘To The Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth’ sets out the stall nicely. Chimes of optimism from the pretty piano and guitar notes build from an eerily attractive pulse until slow, sturdy power rises dramatically from its simple yet otherworldly settings. It takes a certain type of restrained magic to achieve music like this. The arrangement allows each element to breathe fully, with the overall effect of growing emotional and sonic bombast, imposing melodic hooks taking hold throughout.
Beginning with a perky electronic percussion loop, if you’re listening to ‘Here We, Here We, We Here Go Forever’ on streaming services, you may be easily forgiven for thinking its intro was the start of a Spotify advert. Its emotive talking guitars almost bring to mind Peter Frampton’s old voicebox style transported to another world where the instrumentation pushes past the boundaries that Mogwai seems to continue breaching so well. The gorgeous ‘Dry Fantasy’ drifts upwards from a pool of glistening ambient electronics, prominent synths adding oriental flavours to the mixture. Remove the drums and guitars, add a 4/4 beat and structurally, what you have is essentially a piece of techno music.
Mogwai’s musical world is often distinguished by their innovate variations on typically standard practises, where instruments take the place of voices. The odd instance of actual singing creates more of an instrumental effect than a clear cut lead. ‘Ritchie Sacramento’ takes the latter route with serene, dreamlike vocals complimenting the backdrop of rippling beauty as shimmering guitars run through the musical streams like flows of lava. Driving rhythms meet a growing blanket of harmonic distortion in what seems like an effortless feat for this instinctively creative group.
‘Drive The Nail’ does exactly what it says on the tin, taking its time to patiently establish its position before hammering hard, erupting with forceful blasts of riffage as the drum kit receives a total battering. Here, the famously dynamic qualities of the band are on full display. Sitting in the middle of the album is the terrific ‘Fuck Off Money’, featuring strangely alluring vocoder melodies, the hum of analogue synth and downtempo drums that bring to mind the retro-futuristic qualities of French duo Air before heavy waves come crashing over majestically.
Contending for a high place in the list of enjoyably weird Mogwai titles comes the scuzzy joy of ‘Ceiling Granny’, a direct hit which once again cranks up the volume, revelling in triumphant alt-rock riffs. Many bands would smother a piece like this in vocals and be unable to develop the musical content beneath such stellar quality. Instead, it strides on effortlessly, wailing guitars duelling with crashing landscapes. ‘Midnight Flit’ slowly unfolds from something pretty and tranquil into something almost overwhelming and strikingly beautiful. Spellbinding strings fly freely and loudly, with a deep richness at the heart of the tremendous noise. Meanwhile, the sullen calm of ‘Pat Stains’ is unmistakably Mogwai, 6 minutes and 56 seconds of scenic sound where smart drum patterns descend into a series of rhythms, as new atmospheres and colours guide it into a loud climax.
Krautrock is ultimately the key driving force behind the energetic ‘Supposedly We Were Nightmares’, pairing punchy kinetic power with elements that spawn beaming rays of light before the album closes with the epic ‘Its What I Want To Do Mum’. Each instrumental verse adds more clout, laying out a charming guitar line onto ghostly backdrops of keys and crisp, punchy drums. The noisy drama develops naturally, peaking before calming once again to close proceedings.
Joining the dots between old and new Mogwai, As The Love Continues is made the more impressive because this is their 10th studio album, not including all the soundtrack LPs the group have issued over the years. Subtly broadening their range to captivating effect, here’s another fine album to add to a remarkable discography.