Mogwai Flirt with Convention on 'As the Love Continues'
Published Feb 17, 2021Twenty-five years to the day of releasing debut single "Tuner"/"Lower," Scotland's beloved post-rockers Mogwai return with their 10th studio album. The aptly named As the Love Continues cements their post-rock dynasty, and bridges their ever-mutable sound into yet another.
In making As the Love Continues, produced once more by Dave Fridmann following his work on 2017's Every Country's Sun, Mogwai have focused on creating positive, transformative music that offered solace from the mundane. Arguably, Mogwai have made concessions over the years, albeit small, to beef up their sound (see: Fridmann) and make certain electronic inroads, resulting in more palatable music that has moved them father afield from their humble beginnings. As the Love Continues is highly accessible in that sense, and features one of the band's more conventional lyrical tracks to date on "Ritchie Sacramento." It also includes fresh collaborations with Nine Inch Nails' Atticus Ross ("Midnight Fit") and saxophonist extraordinaire Colin Stetson ("Pat Stains").
But that's not to say Mogwai has abandoned what makes them great. They aren't striving to recreate so much as negotiate. As The Love Continues recaptures the signature dynamics and lone wolf guitar solos of the band's early days without sacrificing those post-'90s gains. Album standout "Drive the Nail" brilliantly exploits the band's seesaw of loud-to-quiet/quiet-to-loud in a way that is immediately reminiscent of debut album Young Team, making use of the same equilibrium that has sustained and nurtured Mogwai's success over the years. Closer "It's What I Want To Do, Mum" meanders in all the right ways; starkly naked until it's not. Mogwai creeps up on you, and they know it too. Reverb heavy, all-encompassing, deeply moving soundscapes that surround the listener in euphoric waves of sound that erode all sense of time and space.
Still, the genius of these Scots might just lie in their ability to redirect meaning through song. The randomness of their song titles, for one, assumes a kind of infer-at-your-own-risk policy. "Ritchie Sacramento" aside (whose meaning is clearly articulated by guitarist Stuart Braithwaite's dedication to "all the musician friends we've lost over the years"), all the tracks on the album are up for interpretation. Instrumental music has long been a bastion for personal meaning and introspection, but there's something about Mogwai's exaggerated arbitrary treatment that speaks volumes. Their music is both self-aware and self-referential in that respect, forever pulling at our collective synapses to dive deep or simply skim the surface ⏤ dealer's choice.
While the sheer convergence of "Tuner"/"Lower" and Mogwai's 10th studio album make it hard not to indulge in comparisons, it's simply not fair to hold the band to standards created as aimless teenagers. Though you never forget your first, there are some upsides to maturing. As the Love Continues is one of them. Already an enduring album, it will surely solidify Mogwai's venerated status as shamans of our collective consciousness. (Temporary Residence)