Mogwai – Atomic...

Prolific Scottish Post Rock innovators Mogwai release their third soundtrack album.

Mogwai – Central Belters...

Scottish Post Rock outfit Mogwai mark a hugely prolific twenty years of making music with a compilation that  showcases just why they have endured and thrived for so long in what some consider a niche genre. Bands in the Post Rock/Instrumental category often struggle to grow beyond the somewhat narrow expectations of fans of that genre. Any deviation from the Post Rock formula is not generally met with approval, but to Mogwai’s credit, they have always been a couple of steps ahead of the pack and it is for this reason that they are often recognised as such a pioneering act. 2014’s Rave Tapes was a marked  evolution in their sound, and also provided them with their biggest selling album to date, a long overdue vindication of their single minded and uncompromising approach to making music. Central Belters is a beautifully packaged three CD digipak (six LP vinyl box-set) containing just under three and a half hours of music. It offers a comprehensive overview of the bands work, plucking songs from their very earliest recordings right through to their last EP ‘ Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1’ released in late 2014. It is obvious that a lot of care and attention went into choosing, sequencing, and packaging these tracks; by and large, the very best of their work is represented here – some fans will no doubt focus on what has been omitted, but it is hard to quibble with so much of what is included here. From the ear bleeding assault of early tracks like ‘New Paths To Helicon Pt 1’ and ‘Christmas Steps’ through to the more textured, synthetic feel of ‘I Know You Are But What Am I?’ and ‘2 Rights Make 1 Wrong’ it comes as something of a surprise to ...

Yucatan – Uwch Gopa’r Mynydd...

Let’s get the easy bit out of the way first – Yucatan are Welsh, make music of sky kissing beauty and sound more than a little like Sigur Ros. It might be a lazy comparison, but it’s one that is set to dog the band for as long as they stick closely to the blueprint sound patented by Iceland’s most successful recent musical export. It’s not just that Yucatan choose to sing seven of the eight tracks here in their native tongue – their music employs a similar arsenal of sonic tricks; its the Sigur Ros playbook with all the epic grandeur that goes with that. None of this should deter you from checking out Uwch Gopa’r Mynydd because it is one of 2015’s loveliest records – a dreamy, light infused album of gorgeous music, with its roots in  Post Rock but with just enough personality of its own to make the Sigur Ros comparisons melt into the background. It’s a record reportedly forged and inspired by the natural beauty of Snowdownia – the band resorted to the novel approach of streaming the album a week ahead of release at the summit of Snowdon for those devotees willing to make the trek. ‘Ffin’ makes for a perfect introduction to the album – a beautiful lovelorn melody replete with sighing strings and wide open spaces. The guitars kick in and we are skyward bound. ‘Cwm Llwm’ trails in with twinkling glockenspiel and a ring of familiarity – it’s a few bars in before another lazy comparison springs to mind. Super Furry Animals were one of the first mainstream Welsh bands to sing some of their songs in their native tongue and there are definitely elements of what they do here in the strong melodies and singer Dilwyn...

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress...

They don’t make it easy, do they? Canadian ensemble Godspeed You! Black Emperor have been making their stubbornly obstinate, wilfully singleminded music for over 20 years now. Never once have they wavered; their fire and brimstone, apocalyptic vision of the world rarely leaves room for even the merest sliver of light. Fifth album Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress doggedly follows the same blueprint – and herein lies its strength and its weakness. For the second album in a row,  GY!BE mix the sublime with the infuriating. Like 2012 release ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend’, there are just four tracks stretched across a relatively brief (by their standards) 41 minutes. The similarities don’t end there – two of the tracks are as good as anything they have released and when GY!BE are good, they are simply untouchable. But just like on their last album, the other two songs included are entirely forgettable slabs of unstructured noise, lazy inclusions that serve only to test our patience. It all starts so well – opening track ‘Peasantry or Light! Inside of Light!’ screams into action, bold and dramatic, the soundtrack to the apocalypse. Everything that makes GY!BE so special can be heard here – those end of the world blues guitars, the heart pounding climaxes, the off the cuff chemistry that makes these extended jams sound both loose and meticulously prepared at the same time. They follow this with ‘Lamb’s Breath’; ten minutes of the kind of noise you get when a band down tools at the end of a show and leave everything humming. A fitting way to end a gig perhaps, but a whole lot less interesting on record.  ‘Asunder, Sweet’ is another turgid piece of music; more feedback, more drones, increasing in intensity as the track dissolves into the...

Mogwai – Rave Tapes...

January is traditionally a slow month for new album releases but 2014 looks set to buck that trend with a number of highly anticipated releases scheduled to drop right in the middle of the post Christmas slump. Scottish Post Rock pioneers Mogwai are first up with the follow up to their well received soundtrack for French supernatural chiller Les Revenants. Mogwai are considered by many to be the godfathers of the Post Rock scene – their debut album in 1995 proved to be the blueprint for that genre -lengthy instrumental pieces that quietly built towards punishing crescendos of distorted guitar noise. They spawned a host of imitators as facsimile bands saw an opportunity to tap into the niche but almost religiously zealous fan-base that had latched on to the Post Rock movement. Rave Tapes is their eight studio album (not including soundtrack work) and sees them further distance themselves from the ‘quiet loud’ dynamic that was such a hallmark of their early releases. It is probably closest in spirit to their 2003 album Happy Songs for Happy People with an emphasis on a more textured approach, with electronic elements very much to the fore. That is not to say that guitars have been discarded completely – they still feature heavily throughout, but this is a more restrained effort where the temptation to go for the big finish is never yielded to. Opener ‘Heard About You Last Night’ showcases this more restrained approach; the sky kissing guitars in the chorus offer the tantalising hope that Mogwai are about to reward us with one of their trademark finishes but it never happens. ‘Remurdered’ is built around a fat, distorted electronic bassline that circles in on itself, hypnotic, trance-like. The ghostly remnants of their work on the...

Enemies – Embark Embrace...

Wicklow based four piece Enemies follow up their universally praised debut album with a record that poses more questions than answers. Embark Embrace takes the precise guitar shapes and syncopated rhythms of Math Rock and fuses them with a less po-faced version of Post Rock instrumental music to conjure up with something that is refreshingly and uniquely their own. Guest vocal slots from Heathers and Conor Adams of Cast of Cheers add a new and welcome ingredient to the sonic stew, breaking up the instrumental workouts and adding a little more colour to their sound. Perhaps mindful of the fact that the market for instrumental rock music is a pretty limited one, the addition of these guest vocal appearances could be seen as a tentative toe in the water, an indicator that the band might be considering a path where vocals become an integral feature of their sound. Certainly, the vocal chant of ‘Executive Cut’ turns a melodic instrumental into something more celebratory while elsewhere tracks like ‘Indian Summer’ are exuberant, genre-defying songs that stray beyond the rigid confines that sometimes made their debut seem a little narrow in focus. The band are obviously seriously talented musicians -the taut rhythms and complex guitar interplay at the heart of tracks like ‘Unit Shifter’ and ‘Love Unlimited’ demonstrate that talent to the full. There is a fluidity to this album that hints at a band confident enough to let these songs go where they need to go – the whole record feels like a tight knit group of musicians playing a series of extended, energetic jams. It will be interesting to see where Enemies journey to next – this is music ideally suited for the festival environment, but instrumental Rock music rarely connects with an audience...

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!...

That much maligned genre of music known as Post-Rock has shipped some heavy criticism in recent years.  Mention Post-Rock to most music fan and images of serious young men playing lengthy instrumental pieces with pretentious song titles immediately spring to mind. The bands that have aligned themselves with this genre have done much to promote this stereotypical image by largely adhering closely to the Post-Rock manifesto, almost to the point of parody. Which is a shame really, because scratch beneath the surface, and you will find that some of the most inspiring and exciting music of the last 10 years has emerged from this scene. Bands like Mono, Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You and our own God is an Astronaut have all produced superb albums that have stood the test of time and done much to promote the notion that Post-Rock has more to offer than the stereotypical image would have us believe. Canadian post –rockers Godspeed You!  Black Emperor can justifiably lay claim to having been the most influential band of the past fifteen years in this genre. From the release of their debut album in 1997 to the announcement of an indefinite hiatus in 2003, GY!BE were right at the vanguard of the Post-Rock movement –their emotional,  guitar driven instrumental music with a slight political edge set the benchmark for other bands operating in this field. Although many tried to imitate them, very few bands managed to hit the peaks of intensity they achieved on their seminal album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. Their reappearance as a live act in 2010 was warmly welcomed, and now with little or no fanfare, they have dropped Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, their first album release since 2002. Twenty minute...

Mono -Hymn To The Immortal Wind...

Japan’s Mono have been at the vanguard of that much maligned genre of music known as Post-Rock over the last decade. Mention Post-Rock to most music fan and images of serious young men playing lengthy instrumental pieces with pretentious song titles immediately spring to mind. Those bands that have aligned themselves with this genre have done much to promote this stereotypical image by largely adhering closely to the Post-Rock manifesto, almost to the point of parody. Which is a shame really, because scratch beneath the surface, and you will find some of the most inspiring and exciting music of the last 10 years emerging from this scene. On this, their 5th studio album, Mono may well have delivered one of the defining records of this genre, and certainly their most accomplished effort to date. Hymn to the Immortal Wind is a towering, majestic achievement – terrifying and beautiful in equal measure, with eloquent string-drenched passages giving way to pulverising guitar and drums based climaxes, a whisper to a scream. Producer Steve Albini  (at the helm for his third Mono album) employs a full orchestra to devastating effect on opener ‘Ashes in the Snow’ and this sets the blueprint for what follows –Mono never stray too far from the mix of epic orchestral strings and soaring post-rock guitars, but when the mix is this heady, who cares? ‘Burial at Sea’ employs a tribal drum beat to steadily build towards its furious climax – guitars and orchestra bleed into one and this is perhaps Albini’s greatest contribution – he never sets out to separate, to tidy things up, recognising the impact of the sound, not its component parts. Track 3, ‘Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn’, offers some respite; a shorter, more restrained Morricone-like effort that leaves the...