Release Date: Sep 23, 2008
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Rock, Experimental
Review by Lee Fullington.
Though devoid of lyrics, Mogwai's sixth album has an unspoken poetry. Whereas the music of acts such as Sigur Rós is evocative of majestic, impersonal icescapes, Mogwai release raw emotion in a remarkably precise way. Masters at building tension upon tension then gently letting it go, their cyclical instrumentals are both sorrowful and consoling. .
The latest from Glasgow's post-rock pioneers expounds on the melodic beauty of 2006's Mr Beast. I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead - a requiem of lost promise but few regrets - sets the mood, the backward guitar notes slipping and sliding like the Doors singer in his final bath. Masters of the soft/loud dynamic, the band create a wall of sound that reaches beyond the tumultuous guitars, discovering twinkling optimism in fragile instrumentation and sensitive synths.
As fantastic as "Batcat" is, it represents The Hawk Is Howling only as proof of how wide-ranging the album's sound is. "The Sun Smells Too Loud" is aptly trippy and surprisingly poppy, with wispy electronic textures and a huge rhythm section that gives the song almost planetary heft; and though "Daphne and the Brain" doesn't hit any peaks or valleys, its rolling majesty and shadowy guitar melodies are still awe-inspiring. Between these major statements, The Hawk Is Howling takes breathers with smaller-scale tracks, like the glittering "Kings Meadow," that reveal their intricacy with repeated listens.
Review Summary: Contributing to the monotony of the genre they hate.Multiple ironies surround Mogwai's latest album, The Hawk Is Howling. First, and more obvious, there is an eagle instead of a hawk on the cover, and it is not “howling.” Do birds ever howl? Second and more importantly, the band who refuse to describe themselves as post rock have made a thoroughly consistent post rock album that follows all the modern trends, and unlike Young Team or Come On Die Young, follows the pack rather than leads. Thus, the band that reinvigorated a genre it hates now follows all the stereotypical faults of that genre, except they do it better than just about everyone else.
As an instrumental band, Scottish post-rockers Mogwai have always relied on a certain depth and dynamic to elevate their music above pretty background noise. On their sixth album, the good ideas keep coming but occasionally risk becoming directionless. Not that a few half-baked progressions spell disaster for Hawk, a record that methodically moves from dreamy, lush, introspective numbers to tension and ultimately catharsis in the way Mogwai is close to perfecting.
Mogwai is synonomous with dynamic shifts in the same way that My Bloody Valentine has been equated with guitar distortion or Sonic Youth with alternate tunings. It’s the reliable element, the brand, the one thing that everybody knows about Mogwai: if it’s soft now, it’ll be loud later and vice versa. It’s not a bad schtick, and they’ve turned lots of people on to the power of the big surge.
If you’ve lost touch with the band’s work, something new from Mogwai almost demands a barefoot run through the bountiful legacy of these psychedelic master painters from Glasgow, just to see if they’ve still got what it takes. Rest easy, the group that makes you wish you’d gone to film school so you could’ve built a movie around its expansive instrumentals—works that seem to come rumbling from the molten core of the earth itself—hasn’t changed much from the glory days of early albums such as 1997’s Young Team. Two minutes into “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead,” and it’s just like returning to the familiar smells and dog-eared menu of a favorite restaurant after a long absence.