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Mogwai

The Liquid Room, Edinburgh
4 stars
When Mogwai played the opening night of The Liquid Room a decade ago, their 90 minute Prog wig-out demonstrated an exhilarating flexing of musical muscles. Ten years on, the Glasgow five-piece have honed their instrumental epics over a series of albums culminating in 2006’s Mr Beast and their soundtrack to Douglas Gordon’s film, Zidane.

Live is always where Mogwai’s hook-laden panoramas make most sense, and with maturity has come a subtlety broadening their musical palette beyond the loud-quiet-loud structures of old. Indeed, in terms of lush sentimentalism, last year’s single Friend Of The Night, led by keyboardist Barry Burns early on in tonight’s set, most resembles Michael Nyman’s soundtrack to The Piano.

Beyond a guest vocal from grizzled ex Arab Strap singer Aidan Moffat, the bulk of the rummage through the band’s back pages that follows can now be viewed as variations on a theme. Melodies are kept simple, but, as with Arvo Part or Ennio Morricone, arrangements are crucial to panoramas that sound like they’ve been crafted by seminal Joy Division producer, the late Martin Hannett.

Such brooding intensity is off-set by a personal sense of mischief, that sees guitarist and band figurehead Stuart Braithwaite dedicate a song to “the guy who got arrested for selling E’s.” Beyond such levity, Mogwai are taking contemporary classical music to the people without fuss or highbrow obfuscation. Only during the encore do they resort to brute primitive force, pummeling out a full metal racket resembling an Ozzy-free Black Sabbath before Braithwaite gets on all fours to extract some prolonged din from his FX pedals. It’s a beautiful noise, ten years in the making.

The Herald, May 15th 2007

ends

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