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Mogwai – Atomic

Edinburgh Playhouse
Five stars

Following Playhouse dates by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros, it was only fitting that EIF's contemporary music programme completed the holy trinity of 1990s sired noise rock with two very special appearances by Mogwai to perform the soundtrack to Mark Cousins' film, Atomic. Subtitled Living in Dread and Promise, Cousins' film is an astonishing visual poem that cuts up archive footage to tell the story of nuclear weapons, from Hiroshima to Faslane, stopping off at all points inbetween.

With a six piece version of the band sat in darkness beneath a screen, things begin gently enough with a positively twinkly underscore to images of trees, flowers and other earthly delights that suggest a kind of uncorrupted global village. Within minutes, however, the appliance of science gives way to a barrage of atrocities accompanied by a relentless but still textured sturm und drang that heightens a sense of dread and foreboding with pummeling force.

Images of Aldermaston marches, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Greenham Common and all the other names that have become iconic symbols of the atomic age tell a horrific narrative of wilful and unnecessary destruction. There is a brief moment of respite as the positive aspects of medical research are shown in a necessary flipside to the obscenity of nuclear weapons in a world where billions are spent on Trident while the NHS is destroyed by stealth.

After an epilogue of statistics proclaiming the human and financial cost of nuclear arms, it ends, as it must, with a controlled explosion of noise that gives way to squalls of feedback before eventually finding peace at last.

The Herald, August 29th 2016

ends

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