It's been nearly 15 years since Mogwai released a full album of remixes. When the young Scottish post-rockers released Kicking a Dead Pig in 1998, their debut full-length, Young Team, was barely a year old. Since that time, Mogwai have recorded six studio albums and a slew of EPs, shifting their focus from loud-quiet-loud guitarmonies to synthesizer-laden soundscapes and brazenly distorted epics.
Mogwai are no strangers to remix albums, having issued Kicking a Dead Pig in 1998. However, with A Wrenched Virile Lore, they offer a set of reworkings that are more cohesive than their previous collection, while still taking the songs from Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will in notably different directions from their origins and from each other. It helps that the band enlisted a cadre of remixers that relate to different aspects of their sound and share a maverick spirit.
Mogwai made their name on a simple formula: be very quiet, and then, without warning, be sadistically loud. But very early on, the group showed they weren't especially precious about their practice. Their 1997 full-length debut, Young Team, was quickly followed by Kicking a Dead Pig, wherein Young Team's tracks were subjected to sonic surgery by a cast of noted studio scientists that included Kevin Shields, Alec Empire, and µ-Ziq.
Mogwai’s last album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, found the veteran post-rock instrumentalists reigning in some of their more grandiose late-career tendencies. They’d become less likely to try to blow the lid off with squalls of guitar noise, as they’d done since 2006’s Mr. Beast, inclined instead toward more spacious keyboard-oriented arrangements that, while not neglecting heavy guitar, left room for the development of a wider variety of textures.
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Mogwai’s second remix album is a good reason to dig up their first, 1998’s ‘Kicking A Dead Pig’, and have a think about where those 14 years have gone. The Scottish prog-rockers have released six albums in that time, so they’ve earned a gently indulgent venture like this. Their taste in remixers still tends to the indie-friendly, but their imposing guitar squalls are repeatedly processed into a wildly different beast.
The modern masters of post-rock crescendos, Mogwai practically developed a meticulous formula for the careful structure and subsequent disentanglement of tension. The Scotsmen have traversed the ends of the post-rock spectrum with wide, sprawling paces since their seminal 1997 debut, Young Team, melding the weight of interweaving guitars with a ghostly ambience. The group’s most recent album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, their most structured release to date, has received an experimental redux with A Wrenched Virile Lore, featuring various electronic reimaginings of the heady originals.
In a recent essay for The Slate, Simon Reynolds mused on the practice of artistic theft, in particular the "emerging movement of critics, theorists, writers, and artists [who] argue that techniques of appropriation and quotation are inherent to the creative process." His focus was on art and literature, but he touched on music and sampling too, noting that "remixing and mashups are familiar — indeed, somewhat tired — notions in dance culture". Like most things Reynolds writes, it is well worth a read, but the point I was particularly interested in was one he raises in conclusion: "The stealing and the storing is the easy part. The much harder — and forever mysterious —stage is the transformation of the borrowed materials.
Mogwai’s 2011 studio album ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’ was, by their standards a tamer, more thoughtful piece of work compared to its predecessor, 2008’s sprawling behemoth ‘The Hawk Is Howling’. With gentle nods to 80s krautrock, it was further proof that the band were happy to pull themselves into shapes and forms that would further distance themselves from their more digestible, albeit predictable, post-rock guise found in earlier albums. So it is hardly surprising that a remix album of said seventh long player would surface barely a year later to continue this trend of creative restlessness.