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coverpic flag Scotland - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 15 - 01/12/98

Mogwai
Mogwai Young Team
Chemikal Underground/Jet Set

Alright, here it is; my favourite Scottish album of 1997. And also one in my personal Top Three list. The young sound of Glasgow, Scotland, towards the end of the late 90's. And such a steady team they make, with their playfulness and inventivity. If this also speaks for the spirit of the team of Scottish footballers, I fear Norway will face, well, not "death", but a hard-fought devil with an evil grin in his face when the football World Cup kicks off in France in June.

I "met" Mogwai for the first time with their For Satin EP last summer, and I immediately became excited. This is their debut album, and I'm amazed. Mogwai makes noise, they roar and rumble, and yet they can be gentle and kind. They tend to space-out during many of their songs, but it seems like they always manage to get down to the ground again at the end. Mogwai plays indie-prog, and their music is mostly instrumental. I say mostly, because there are textual fragments inbetween. Such as pieces of radio-voices (?) and telephone dialogues (getting that Scottish accent, anyone!?), plus some spoken parts with lyrics you can hear and understand.

Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home is the witty title of track one, which is calmly sneaking in on you. It starts with the voice of a girl, giving us sort of a description of the music we're about to hear:

...this music can put a human-being in a trance-like state...it's bigger than words, and wider than pictures...if someone says that Mogwai are the stars, I would not object...if the stars had a sound, it would sound like this...

Then the music starts to rock gently, before they raise the "temperature", or intensity slightly. A cool starter. Teasing and tempting you. This goes on in the next tune, Like Herod, which builds up quietly, quietly, before a sudden, explosive riff-o-rama. Then again, tenderness, until the steam gets out again. On an on, for almost 12 minutes. Imagine a dinosaur walking, with a slowmotional grace, but yet being enormously heavy and "clumsy". Or a beached whale, fighting for survival, squealing. It's easy to find favourites for different moods; Katrien is tough, and Tracy is a beauty (ending with that telephone-call).

To be critical, I have to say that Mogwai now and then tend to repeat themselves. But, on the other hand I really like their lively sound, like if they're playing everything live, inpromptu. And they know how to arrange their songs with the perfect mixture between noise-bits and smoother parts. Mogwai both explode and implode at the same time. They're presenting everything with an excellent instrumentation. Rough guitars, steady basslines, and brilliant drumming. (sounding like drums!) On top of this or inbetween, you'll find piano, flute and glockenspiel. I can hear lots of other bands in the music of Mogwai. Imagine a mixture of Sonic Youth, The Wedding Present (parts of some of the melodies, and especially the drums) and Mercury Rev. Without lyrics, of course, but the dynamic music alone can bring the most intense feeling.

The grande finale comes with the closing track, Mogwai Fear Satan(!), which is a 16 minute (plus) flight way off, up to some distant galaxies. Extremely pleasant, with Mogwai controlling the steam, leaving us accompanied by a beautiful flute on top of a carpet of sound. Space is big, but going out there with Mogwai feels 100% safe.

(Released as CD and double vinyl LP)

Copyright © 1997 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Mogwai articles/reviews: 4 Satin EP, Come On Die Young, Mr. Beast, Mr. Beast, New Paths To Helicon, No Education=No Future (Fuck The Curfew) EP, Rave Tapes, Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait (Original Soundtrack).

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