Mogwai , Rave Tapes (1/21, Sub Pop, subpop.com)
After forming in the mid-’90s in its hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, Mogwai has steadily progressed past the post-rock label it loathes, practically creating a genre by itself: Call it post-prog-drone-psych-rock, or whatever. Now, nearly 20 years in, Rave Tapes is the band’s eighth studio record, a collection of 10 deftly woven dreamlike soundscapes and an excellent signpost of the band’s ever-evolving sound. Recorded last summer at Mogwai’s Castle of Doom Studios in Glasgow by producer Paul Savage (who worked with the band on its first release, Young Team, as well as its previous one, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will), Rave Tapes doesn’t quite live up to the immediately impressive works of Mogwai’s back catalog, but that’s not to say it isn’t a great record. Perhaps it’s because the band now straddles a fine line, working in more synth-based arrangements than ever while still clinging to the layers of lavish guitars so indicative of past albums. What’s truly astonishing here, however, is the band’s ability to go beyond the multilayered, long-winded compositions of previous releases while creating a seamless journey from track to track. The album opens with the droning “Heard About You Last Night” and progresses nicely with the heavily loop-based “Simon Ferocious.” The third track, “Remurdered,” wholeheartedly embodies the band’s latest shift to electronica with its driving synth line. Things pick up a bit with the more guitar-fueled, Fugazi-lite “Mastercard,” and the album peaks with the slow-building “Blues Hour,” one of the band’s finer, more serene moments. The closing track, “The Lord Is Out of Control,” swells and builds in true Mogwai fashion, reminiscent of “Hunted by a Freak” from the band’s seminal Happy Songs for Happy People. Rave Tapes hardly represents a shift entirely to electronic-based music, yet it signifies Mogwai’s ability to mature and grow even 20 years later, and ultimately stands among some of its best work to date.