Vermilion Sands

posted: 2024-01-20 Rave Tapes Mogwai

released: 2014-01-20
on label: Rock Action
artist: Mogwai
genre: Post-Rock
with some: Electronic

During the time they were making Rave Tapes, Mogwai’s flair for soundtracks was being celebrated: the band began 2013 with the release of their brilliant score for Les Revenants, the cryptic French TV show about the undead, and they were just about to play a series of performances of their music for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait as accompaniment to the movie. All this film-related activity may have inspired Rave Tapes’ restraint (the fact that the band had a narrow window of time in which to record the album probably contributed to it as well). For much of the album, Mogwai trades majesty for economy, focusing on a few motifs that they combine and recombine in an almost modular fashion.

Barry Burns’ bubbling, gurgling synth is chief among these elements, especially on “Simon Ferocious,” where it locks in with rolling beats and knotty guitar work with a precision that stops just short of clinical. Hearing the band put together these song-puzzles offers a more cerebral kind of listening experience than Les Revenants’ spare, mournful dread or Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’s rock fury; even when Mogwai turn up the volume, they remain aloof. Some of Les Revenants’ eeriness informs “Remurdered”’s cold-blooded electro-rock, while “Hexon Bogon” and “Master Card” coil heavy riffs upon themselves until they’re about to snap.

As impressive as Rave Tapes’ rockers are, the album’s heart lies in subtler tracks like “Heard About You Last Night,” a dreamy prelude that makes the most of the delicacy Mogwai has excelled at since their early days. Similarly, the quietly anthemic “Blues Hour” and vocoder-driven “The Lord Is Out of Control” hark back to the muted beauty of Mr. Beast and Come On Die Young’s implosive minimalism. Rave Tapes takes a while to hit its stride, but it delivers plenty of moments to keep fans intrigued once it does.