Release Date: Feb 19, 2021
Record label: Temporary Residence
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Mogwai are a busy band. Many acts nearing the end of their third decade would be forgiven for slowing their pace, for being selective in their output, and even for running out of ideas. Not Mogwai. This will be their fourth studio album in the last 10 years - a decade which has also seen them release three EPs, two live albums, a lovingly compiled six LP best-of, one remix album, and five original scores - albums which themselves have been critically acclaimed in their own right.
Mogwai's 1997 debut album Mogwai Young Team opened with a crackly voice declaring that "music is bigger than words and wider than pictures", a line that has felt relevant ever since when trying to describe their sound. Tenth studio album As The Love Continues shows them to be still upholding the stylistic principles that have been so consistent throughout their career, but also applying them in increasingly thoughtful and rewarding ways. In short, they're getting better at doing things at which they've always excelled.
Quietly but not so quietly, Mogwai have evolved into one of the most consistent bands of the past quarter century. The tempestuous swings from deceptive tranquility to beautiful brutality that staked out the young Glasgow team's corner of the guitar rock realm in the late '90s belied the measured progression that would steer them through the subsequent two decades. Nothing so far has stood in the way of Mogwai's steady schedule of LPs, EPs, film and television scores, and other releases, so it would have been foolhardy to bet on a worldwide pandemic doing so now.
Since their inception, Mogwai have paved the way for post-rock's success, and much like most of what's come before, 'As The Love Continues' is an instrumental masterclass. 'Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever' is a full-on shivering nightmare, equal parts apocalyptic and beautiful. Meanwhile, 'Ceiling Granny' tries its best to destroy your eardrums with the loudest guitar groans this side of the Milky Way.
Twenty-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.
I wouldn't place it up there with their best though... As Mogwai ascend to veteran act status, they are more productive than ever. Working on soundtracks for TV series, documentaries or music, provided a natural expansion for their music. For a band that pioneered the post rock genre, the Scottish quartet makes sure they don't stagnate. Unsurprisingly, As the Love Continues keeps inserting new sonic elements into the mix.
A Mogwai melody always sounds like a eulogy for someone you've never met. Whether played on a hushed piano or pushed through Stuart Braithwaite and Barry Burns' guitars, their writing is sad in a way that's not personal: full of familiar emotions, but still opaque about the specifics. After 25 years, 10 studio albums, a dozen or so EPs, and plentiful film scores, Mogwai's fingerprints have become easy to recognize.
Their latest, As the Love Continues, is no different. Even while the album holds a scattering of promising moments, they're eclipsed by ones we've heard time and time again. It may be a fair assumption that they aren't necessarily concerned with making headlines as much as they are with simply enjoying the ride - considering they're a group celebrating their twenty-fifth year together.
Mogwai's traditional indirectness - their penchant for naming predominantly instrumental tracks after obscure references or with dense layers of irony - is gleefully flaunted on As The Love Continues, when a voiceover calmly reads the title of the opening track. The remainder unfurls in typical Mogwai fashion, but as an opening remark it sticks out as a deliberate counter to their established style: "To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth". Directness isn't much of a theme here, but it does set up how the band's traditional approaches are gently massaged through the record.
If longevity doesn't dampen a band's questing determination, might a global pandemic do the job? Not if you're Mogwai, who navigated both with inspiration and spirit in 2020. With touring on hold, Scotland's sons of guitar anarchy and DIY synth splendour released two pay-what-you-will digital albums in the last year, a live belter (2018) and a lush score (ZeroZeroZero). And although the 25th anniversary of their debut single could have been their cue to take stock, Mogwai have resurfaced with their most evolved album in a decade, tethering their formative instincts to forward-thinking ambitions with an instinctive feel for our choppy times.