Roundtable Review: Mogwai – Rave Tapes

It’s the end the month which means it’s time for our second Roundtable Review of the year. This month we’re tackling a band who damn near is bordering on legendary post-rock status at this point. Needing no real introduction, this month we’re excited to examine Mogwai’s latest effort “Rave Tapes” , which saw a January 20th release via Rock Action Records (UK) and Sub Pop Records (US). With this being the 8th album in a career that has spanned nearly 20 years, our team took the album with a keen ear and anticipation for what these post-rock giants brought to the genre this time around.

We would love to hear your input and thoughts on ‘Rave Tapes’ so feel free to leave a comment and let us know if you loved it, hated it, or just didn’t care for the release in general.

“I got into Mogwai when a friend handed me a mix tape entitled, “Beginners Guide to Rock Action”. It was the only Mogwai compilation you could ever need and contained only the best tracks from their back catalogue all the way up to Happy Songs for Happy People. That compilation was a sound track to some great times and each one of those tracks was special to me.

I didn’t listen to an actual Mogwai album for some time. In fact it was 2006 when Mr Beast came out. From there I started to explore their back catalogue and found that Beginners Guide To Rock Action was the best of Mogwai and, despite some absolutely killer tracks across all these albums, I had already heard all that the band had to offer.

So I have always been cautious when Mogwai release a new album. I am always convinced that they will disappoint again and again. Not that they cannot write some incredible music, just that each album will, ultimately, be filled with filler tracks. So I was completely surprise when I played Rave Tapes and found their most complete album to date.

The whole thing fits together so well and each track stands on its own merits without standing too far out from the rest. Mogwai can be applauded that each new release brings a little something new to the mix, but never to the detriment of their sound. Rave Tapes is brooding; tracks are mid-tempo short journeys that, with each new listen, display the subtle nuances that show how incredible these guys are at composition.

I’ve heard people shrug this release off as, “too synthy”. Yes there is a lot of synth here, but each instrument has its place and there are still a ton of brilliant guitar melodies to write home about. Overall this album is so full of hooks that your head won’t know what you should be humming by the end of it and there are too many highlights to name them all. If you forced me to reel some off I’d instantly blurt out Remurdered, Deesh, and No Medicine For Regret; but you should really take in this album as a whole.

So the question is: Is this Mogwai’s best album? My answer is emphatically, yes! Simply because of the way it all fits together, unlike most of their previous work. It also has a handful of standout tracks that can stand alongside some of stunning tracks that are packed into their back catalogue.” – TenaciousListening

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“I’m not ashamed to admit that Mogwai’s style of post-rock has never really clicked with me. While I appreciate what they’ve done for the genre, I’ve largely skipped around the majority of their discography to a very select few songs that I do find interesting. To be perfectly honest up until now the only Mogwai release I enjoy front to back is their 2011 4-track EP ‘Earth Division’. With all that being said, I’m pleased to say that ‘Rave Tapes’ has absolutely won me over and is a marvelous album, easily my favorite work to date by the Glasgow rockers.

Everything about this album just free flows so flawlessly save for ‘Blues Hours’, which I feel should have been saved for a future EP. The keys, synths and elements of electronica shine brightly and are complimented with just the right amount of reverb and drone. Drums and beat patterns are infectiously intoxicating and the pacing really helps lament the mood. With each subsequent listen I find myself enjoying the album more and more due to the simplistic beauty of the whole package. There is never too much going on, everything feels spacious and meaningful.

The band isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here and I’m sure a song like “Remurdered” will piss some post-rock purists off, but you know what, Fuck em! Mogwai has nothing left to prove do they? I love “Remurdered” to death, but then again this is coming from the same guy who’s most listened to release of 2014 is Crystal Method’s latest self titled album, it being my favorite album to work out in the gym to right now. There is a little something for everyone on ‘Rave Tapes’. I hope that this electronic heavy styling is a direction they decide to pursue going forward. This album gets a solid B+ in my book (no, we’re not doing letter grades on this site now).” – James

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“I wonder if Young Team was just a fluke. Mogwai has made some good songs since then — one, maybe two per album — but really, very little of their catalogue holds a candle to the greatness that was achieved on their debut. On ‘Rave Tapes’, most of the songs meander to nowhere, yet not for long enough for them to become hypnotic. “Remurdered” is fun, and “Blues Hour” is very endearing. The rest of the songs fail to leave any memorable imprint though, their hooks ranging from forgettable to tedious. I don’t think I’m a Mogwai hipster who only likes the old stuff because it’s old. Their sound was significantly different in 1997. And perhaps my favourite song of theirs is 2011’s “Drunk and Crazy”, so I’m hardly averse to the new. I just expect more from a group so acclaimed. I wish I had more to say about Rave Tapes, but to me it’s mostly an album of uninspired melodies and insipid beats.” – Shooter

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“When a band like Mogwai puts out a new album, the expectation is always higher. They are one of the big names, that rare post-rock band that you could almost say has made it. Made it to where is a completely different topic. But here we are with a new release from one of the biggest names in the post-rock scene.

This album is consistent, solid, and very forgettable if you aren’t paying attention. The only track that really stands out is Remurdered with it’s epic sounding 80’s vibe like a track off the Drive Soundtrack. Outside of that the tracks stay pretty calm and subdued. They don’t cater to crescendos, but Mogwai never really have. They’ve always been a band with solid songs doing their own thing. Rave Tapes is no different.

The album would be easy to toss aside after a listen because of how subtle it plays out. My biggest gripe is that each track feels like it should weave into the others, but they just don’t. The album feels like it has a loose theme that connects these tracks with a tiny thread. It takes time to appreciate this album, and I feel as though it could have used just a bit more tidying up. A track like Repelish should have been relocated to Bonus Track status, and it would have been nice to see these tracks meld a bit more. However, after a few listens this has become an album to listen to while fixated on other things. It plays well in the background, but doesn’t hold it’s own for sole focus. A solid release by Mogwai that needs just a bit more to stand on its feet.”Bryan

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“Oh Mogwai, how you bring me such joy. Again and again, album after album, you just put a smile on my face. Rave Tapes is no exception. What I think people miss about this band is the inherent humor involved with them. One gets the feeling that the only thing Mogwai takes seriously is the music they make. They’re just taking the piss out of everything else. The music industry, artistic context, and even the post rock genre itself seem to be a good laugh.

From start to finish, Rave Tapes is a solid record. Its more synthy overall then other Mogwai offerings, sure, but not overdone. Written and arranged with the competence one would expect, the analogue sounds really blend nicely with the warm production here.

Listening to Mogwai evolve album-to-album is fascinating and rewarding. There’s always a slightly different slant to things. Sometimes it’s quite subtle. Sometimes you get the feeling it’s just for a lark.

Highlights like “Remurdered,” “Mastercard,” and “No Medicine For Regret” are joined by slightly off kilter beauties like “The Lord Is Out Of Control.” My personal top pick here is the beautiful and darkly hilarious “Repelish.”

After several listens I started to wonder if maybe this whole album was made as a post molly club night come down record. It’s certainly languid and gentle enough.

Mogwai have deservedly earned their notoriety and the respect they’re given in the post musical world. Hell, they’ve come just as close as third wave darlings like Explosions in the Sky at being crossover successes. Rave Tapes is another great chapter in the very long book of Mogwai’s pantheon of enjoyable albums. It’s not the most essential, but it certainly put a smile on my face.”Erich

   

Click here to download Rave Tapes via Itunes

Click here to download Rave Tapes via Mogwai’s official online store

Winds With Hands – (untitled) **Must Listen**

Reviewed by: Shanexedge

By this point, anyone that is even remotely well-versed in post-rock/post-metal is aware that Russia is steadily turning out a staggering amount of great bands (see the recent review of the newest Show Me A Dinosaur album on here as proof). Even with the internet being the Great Spreader of Things, there’s undoubtedly a ton of bands from Russia that we’ll likely never know about (along with a million bands from everywhere else in the world). Thankfully, Winds With Hands is not one of those bands that will remain unknown. I can’t recall how I first stumbled upon this trio from Stavropol, but once I saw that their influences included not only names you’d expect like Isis and Pelican, but also Fall of Efrafa and Amanda Woodward, I knew I had to check out their debut release, (Untitled).

The Isis/Pelican influence is definitely felt throughout, though that’s certainly not a bad thing. Not once during the entire duration of the album did anything feel like a rip-off, it just gives you an idea of what to expect, musically. The opening track, “Into the North Sea” sets the atmospheric tone for the album – the whole thing feels very cold and isolated. Though the city of Stavropol sits nearly 2,000 miles from the shores of the North Sea, it’s a mountainous area, and given that the album was recorded in winter… it’s pretty easy to get that feeling. So dense is that feeling, in fact, that the next track being titled “Eternal Winter” doesn’t feel like a stretch of the imagination at all. There’s a good bit of the Fall of Efrafa influence here, which of course I love. Overall, a very moody, dark track, and probably my favorite on the album.

Given the tone of the album, even the “prettier” moments, like the first few minutes of “Closing Date”, feel a bit uneasy. Winds With Hands have come out swinging and made their presence known as a band that can masterfully craft a story without uttering a single word. I know that’s what a lot of post-* bands strive for, but frankly, a great many of them fall short. That’s not the case here. There’s almost a cinematic feel to the whole album, though certainly not in the way that bands like Yndi Halda and U137 are doing things. The build-ups and climaxes are there, sure, but they’re much less joyous. Certainly not any less beautiful, but not in that warm fuzzy feeling sort of way. By the time the closing track, “Decline of the Empire” hits, you feel it. It’s bleak, it’s ruined, and it’s unforgiving.

One thing to note about the music on this album – there’s nothing technically astounding here. Each instrument is played with relative simplicity, though it’s a very deliberate simplicity. I really get the feeling that while any one of the three musicians that make up this band could churn out music that is more technical, this deliberate simplicity is, to me, a sign of very talented songwriters. They understand that you don’t’ need intricate guitar solos and complicated drum fills to make a moment sink in, and that sometimes the exact opposite is what best does the trick. This is a really, really fantastic album that I think fans of the Isis school of post-metal will greatly enjoy. Hell, I think most people that enjoy post-rock will enjoy it.

Finally, seeing as how most everything that I can find about the band is in Russian, and Google Translate is about as useful as cooler in Antarctica, I can’t tell if Winds With Hands is a side project of members of One Day Of December (as the two bands share all but one member), or a band formed from the ashes. All signs point towards the latter, though if you enjoy this release, I’d say that the lone release by their other (former?) band is absolutely worth checking out as well.

    

tags: experimental atmosphere atmospheric instrumental post-metalpost-rock Stavropol

Wander – Mourning

Reviewed by: Foofer

Overall, “Mourning” is an album that’s easy to get into, and even easier to fall in love with. Right away they introduce themselves with a roaring hello, and then just as quickly as it started, the roaring becomes a whisper. From then on, I was hooked. I’ve been listening to this album over and over again for the past two weeks, and every time I listen to it, I find something new to latch onto. Whether it’s the dreamy feel in ‘Youth’ or the way ‘Soar’ makes you wish you could fly. If I were to describe this album in one word, it would be the word ‘Expansive’.

It’s expansive in the way that it lets you broaden your musical horizons. When you first start listening to post-rock, you generally begin with the more popular bands, but they’re typically the most generic bands, too. Growing tired of these bands is nigh inevitable. Explosions in the Sky are decent composers, but they have trouble making new sounds. This Will Destroy You is very talented, but you can only listen to the same two albums so many times. Wander is a very good step in the right direction towards other post-rock bands that have more to offer than the stereotypical sounds of these gateway bands.

Normally I’m wary of post-rock albums where the majority of the pieces are under four minutes, but this one manages to maintain your attention without being too spastic or disinteresting. There are some times where they make the typical post-rock sounds of twinkly guitars with way too much reverb and drums going snare-happy, but in no way is it the focus of their album. Again, we encounter how expansive this album can be. It really is the perfect adjective for this album.


My one and only problem is the same problem I have with most post-rock albums: The ending. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, the finale is well over ten minutes long, and it’s usually the one with the largest crescendo. I tire of this musical rut that most post-rock bands have gotten themselves into. Post-rock is supposed to be about varied sounds and textures with similar underlying structures, and I think most bands have forgotten their roots. This is one such band, but their music is too beautiful for me to get grumpy about it.

    

tags: rock post-rock shoegaze Oakland

When Icarus Falls – Circles

Reviewed by Erich Heider

It’s fitting to me that this band calls themselves When Icarus Falls. If you remember the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, an imprisoned father and son used wax and feathers to make wings to escape their lofty incarceration. It worked out for dad, but Icarus, in a bit of hubris, flew too close to the sun, melting the wax that held his wings together, and fell into the sea.

So it is with When Icarus Falls. The musical themes are good, and the lyrics very much filled with pathos. Although ambitious and dexterous, Circles seems to be too much of a mouthful for the band to chew smoothly. Somehow, at least to me, it just ends up a little flat.

When I first got this album, I thought what I might have a problem with were the vocals. They’re very black metal. I don’t usually mind this, but the music didn’t seem to accompany it that well. Upon repeated listens, this proved to actually be a strength. I began enjoying the strained yells within the context of the songs. It makes When Icarus Falls stand out, and showcases vocalist Diego Mendiano’s skill in conveying emotion. Even in the yells, he’s subtle.

For such a heavyish album, Circles is very progg-ish. This is where the wax starts to melt. It feels like some of the progressiveness, both musically and thematically, comes at expense to the overall flow and vibe of the ep. This is especially true in the opening and closing tracks of the four songs on this release, Celestial Bodies and Nyx (remixed). Momentum just seems to be shaved down, in a trade of with drama and complexity.

This Lausanne, Swiss five piece is obviously capable of big things.  The production is very well done and the scope feels almost right. The drums are killer. Guitar interplay is tense, and these guys can get pretty heavy. In a laudable feat, the bass is mixed well enough to be audible throughout. Keyboards are central at times, but never over dominate the mix.

Circles just miss the mark a few times, trying to attain a little too much. The result is an enjoyable but uneven ep that lacks staying power. You can’t ever fault anyone for aiming high though, and luckily the band doesn’t pay the price of the titular figure. I’ll be very interested to hear the results when they fly again.

 

tags: metal circles hardcore metal posthardcore postmetal switzerland when icarus falls Switzerland

Cleft – Bosh!

Reviewed by Foofer

I tend to judge a math rock album based on how much it makes me think while I’m listening to it. If I were to listen to “Bosh!” enough, I think I might come up with the cure for cancer. The way they shift from one time signature to the next is literally flawless, you can’t tell unless you’re actively listening to it. And just when you think you know what the rest of the album is going to be like, they turn the tables and come at you from a completely unpredictable angle. It’s not very often you hear a math-rock album with this much distortion in the guitar. First time you hear the guitar without distortion, you’re already halfway through the album. That in and of itself makes it a noteworthy band to me.

After the album ends, you feel like a small child. “Again, again!” you think to yourself as you press play for the second time. But that’s you start seeing the flaws, cracks, and wrinkles.

On the first listen, I really enjoyed the way they compose their tunes, it’s got a flow to it like a violent river; you can tell where it’s going, but there are lots of bumps and jumps along the way. The second time through, I realized it doesn’t really flow as an album, it really seems more like a collection of songs thrown together with no regard to how they relate to each other, like a best of Cleft! album.

The first time I heard this album, I was floored when I found out they were a two-piece band. Being a two-piece band and sounding this good is a very difficult thing to do, but after some sleep and renewed ears, I really think they’d benefit greatly from a third band member. What little bass there is seems to just follow what the guitarist is doing, it’s underwhelming to say the least. Also, the quality of the recordings seems to vary from song to song, making for a very jarring experience.

Don’t get me wrong, the album is wonderful to listen to, it’s just not a technical achievement by any means. It feels like a very raw album, and maybe that’s what they were going for, but I hope to see something more polished from them in the future.

On a final and completely superfluous note, I love how the “Hostage” single is the album art from a different perspective. Nice touch.

 

tags: 2-piece instrumental math rock rock uk mathrock odd post-rockprogressive turbo Manchester

Deep Elm Records Offers Name Your Price (No Minimum) Downloads On Entire Catalog of 200+ Albums (Press Release)

Attention, People of Earth:

Deep Elm Records is pleased to announce that we are now offering downloads of every album in our catalog (200+) on a Name Your Price (no minimum) basis. Fan support of our artists is a key element in the creation of music that inspires, excites and consoles. It’s all about bands and fans coming together as one and experiencing music’s awesome ability to move the soul. So if you have the means, please show your love by Naming Your Price for a download. If you sincerely do not have any means, in exchange for each download we politely request that you post, share, tag and tweet to tell your friends about the album. Our bands and label depend on your word of mouth. Even if it’s a small act of kindness you perform for a complete stranger (the world could really use more selfless acts of kindness), do something…pay it forward. Be pono.

I once had a dream to inspire people with music. Since I’m not a musician myself, I thought I could achieve this by starting a record label. Armed with zero knowledge of the music business, I decided to follow my dream. That was 19 years ago. Last month, Deep Elm released our 200th album…the incredible Save Your Heart by LIGHTS & MOTION. We’ve gone from consigning vinyl 45s via bicycle / backpack to mom and pop record shops in NYC to providing music for Hollywood films…even The Oscars. Minds = blown. We have made our share of mistakes, but when we fell down we got back up. That’s the more important part. We fought for fairness in an industry swimming with sharks. We fought for what we believed in. We found a way to make it work. And when there was no way, we invented one.

I know so many people (including many of you reading this message) that have such incredible talents, ideas and visions for a better tomorrow. I encourage you to keep fighting the good fight. With sincere intention, purity of heart, hard work and sacrifice, you can achieve anything. Everything is possible. Dreams do come true. Love what you do.

You may be surprised to learn that Deep Elm’s current artist roster has been built solely by bands submitting their music to the label. And we don’t require multi-album agreements. Our bands call Deep Elm home because they want to, not because they have to. We release albums that move our hearts and for no other reason at all. We continue to build a better label – one that operates for glory, not gold. Fairness to the artist and undying integrity in all that we do have been guiding principles at Deep Elm since day one.

Deep Elm is part of a threatened breed of true independents that exist for the love of music. Most so-called “indie” labels are, in fact, funded and / or distributed by major record labels and their affiliates. Not Deep Elm. On a completely self-sufficient basis and without any outside support, Deep Elm competes in an industry dominated by corporate giants. We are proud to be 100% independent. It has always been Deep Elm’s intention to get the music of our family of artists into the hands (and ears) of as many people as possible. This announcement is a big step towards that goal. So if you like what you hear, spread the word. And we’ll make sure these bands are there when you need them.

We’re not just making music together, we’re making history.

Love and Aloha,

John @ Deep Elm

P.S. Get your download on here: http://www.deepelm.com/music