Mogwai has returned with a new full-length album and a sound as dark and brooding as ever. It’s the band’s first for Sub Pop Records after leaving Matador with the Hawk is Howling… Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Appropriately, the opening track “White Noise” sounds like a slip away from consciousness, with a buoyant guitar line that reverberates with every note on a steady, spare beat. Other instruments stack up, as brilliant vibes waft over the din in a patient, redundant melody. When the guitars rumble and screech to soaring heights, yes, this is the soundtrack to the eternal abyss, and the music that will forever live on after the last shake of your mortal coil.
The group’s name, a reference to the 1984 Joe Dante film Gremlins, started as a joke. But, as the band point out on their website’s FAQ, it also means “ghost” in Chinese. Now, after all these years, along comes the album that fits their name for its more serious, ethereal reference.
The music is epic and otherworldly. Hissing guitars quake and rumble on the opening of “Rano Pano” in a manner that loosely recalls the original Godzilla theme song. But it’s eerie beyond monster movie schlock. This is the sound a mountain might make if it began to shake and inch toward you.
With Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Mogwai’s seventh album, the Scotland-based quintet are once again working with producer Paul Savage. Savage was in the studio to help bring to life Young Team, the acclaimed 1997 album that put Mogwai on the mostly instrumental, post-rock map. As much as I loved that album, which still stands tried and true in the annals of indie rock, Mogwai have grown up much since then. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will features a more focused and less self-indulgent sound. The shift has been gradual enough to make every album in-between interesting, and I have never tired of the band over the years. Don’t get me wrong, Mogwai still have a sense of humor, as seen in the official video for “Rano Pano”:
But do not be distracted by the goofy sci-fi/bromantic video above, the guys in the band have matured nicely. On Young Team, and other early works, Mogwai at times fumbled around with what can be best described as “noodling.” Over the course of their discography, they have learned to follow the music instead of force it. Like the soulful LCD Soundsystem and the masterful Robert Fripp, Mogwai create transcendent, complex music that sounds effortless and fluid.
A shout out goes out to Luke Sutherland who guests on the album on various instruments in addition to vocals on “Mexican Grand Prix,” a song that also recently got the official music treatment (and the album still hasn’t officially arrived [It’s due out Feb. 15]!):
Sutherland has been a frequent collaborator with Mogwai, and I loved his old band Long Fin Killie. I even had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing him for a profile piece in “JAM Entertainment News,” a Florida music mag that used to be available for free and local record stores before the rise of the Internet. Continuing with the theme of death, Sutherland brings the experience to the album, as he nearly died in a car accident while touring. But thank God he survived, because here is one of those rare vocal-oriented Mogwai tracks that works. Sutherland sings in an eerie, near unintelligible whisper over a buoyant bass line as noisy interweaving guitar lines pile up over an organ melody.
Finally, I do not own the vinyl version– yet– but I cannot wait to hear those beefy sounding drums tapping away at the skins on “Death Rays,” as organs swell and billow, following the lead of an electric guitar’s entrancing, triste melody on the analog medium (and Sub Pop knows how to press records [For the record, Matador is none too shabby either]).
Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will can turn gray and gloomy at times (“Letters to the Metro” is especially hushed and dreary), and that mood is so well reflected in the odd twilight overcast images of the cityscapes that so suitably permeate the album art inside and out. All the better reason to hold it in the large record-size format of the double-LP.
Look out for a limited edition version of the album, as well, which includes a bonus CD featuring a 23-minute long piece called “The Singing Mountain” recorded for Douglas Gordon and Olaf Nicolai’s “Monument for Forgotten Future” installation in Essen, Germany. I have not heard the track, but the length sounds interesting.
Finally, you can stream the album free here, and experience it for yourself. If you like ambient, jazz or metal, Mogwai never seem to fail at bringing it all together in their truly original sound.
I just realized the coupling of image and music in the videos above do not compare with the gorgeous short film shot by the album art’s photographer, Antony Crook. It features an exclusive edit of “How to Be a Werewolf” off Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. You can watch “Thirty Century Man” here.