Mogwai have never been ones to abide by expectation. Their synth-drenched sound and soaring set-ups make for an unusual combination, one that delivers alluring, if occasionally elusive, melodies and rich atmospheric textures. It’s psych rendered in an unusually accessible and articulate way. It’s also enabled this Scottish ensemble to build a formidable reputation over the years, one best appreciated by those who tend to admire ambition and experimentation.
The band’s new album, Every Country’s Sun, doesn’t necessarily represent a significant break from their norm, but it does offer a consistency that allows an easy flow from one track to another, all the while relying on sonics rather than singing to convey their passion and intents.
Consequently, vocals are mostly non-existent—the rambunctious “Party in the Dark” provides one of the few exceptions—and if the material occasionally drifts a tad too aimlessly, as evidenced in the otherwise unobtrusive “aka 47,” there’s enough energy and ingenuity to hold interest throughout. Besides, the mellow repose was evidently planned on purpose; guitarist Stuart Braithwaite has declared that at least some small measure of inspiration originated with the fact that the last couple of years have been especially turbulent, and that the album was conceived as a musical salve against the turmoil.
That being the case, the whispers of repose never subside, whether through the subdued yet shimmery “1000 Foot Face” or the album’s opening tour de force, “Coolverine,” one of several songs that scale to sky high proportions. “Don’t Believe the Fife,” “Crossing the Road Material” and the title track are similarly entrancing, a credit to veteran producer David Fridmann’s ability to gently shift tones and textures while allowing them to coalesce lucidly. These may not be songs of the most hummable variety, but they do resonate. Likewise, when they do amp up the intensity—the double impact of the majestic “Battered at a Scramble” and “Old Poisons” in particular—the effect is nothing less than breathtaking.
Whether Mogwai has achieved Braithwaite’s stated ambitions is a matter of perspective, but suffice it to say Every Country’s Sun is something of an epic, one with the sweep and sound to take the band to the next level. It doesn’t get more illuminating than this.