Scottish post-rockers Mogwai are a band who need little introduction. Since their inception in 1995, the band have been at the forefront of the UK’s instrumental/post-rock scene, experimenting with time signatures and dynamics while subverting expectations on almost every album and soundtrack. And though their last record, 2014’s Rave Tapes might well have been their least ‘Mogwai’ record yet, their highly anticipated ninth studio album, Every Country’s Sun, isn’t so much as a return to form, as a re-embracing of their original ideals.
This is due, in part, thanks to the production duties of Dave Fridmann, the man behind such definitive Mogwai albums as Come on Die Young and Rock Action. Every Country’s Sun shares a similar aesthetic to those records, in that it’s bold, brash, and quintessentially Mogwai. For the most part.
Opener ‘Coolverine’ meanders beautifully, building steadily until it blossoms in to the rich, welcoming and slightly sinister brand of post-rock the band have made a name from. Following track ‘Party in the Dark’ offers a rare glimpse of founding member Stewart Braithwaite’s woozy vocals, providing an early insight in to the more melodic nature of the record, while being the closest thing to a pop song Mogwai have ever written.
Elsewhere, the analog synth of ‘ak47’ smacks of Michael Stein’s Stranger Things soundtrack, with all its electronic eeriness, while ‘Don’t Believe the Fife’ appears to plod somewhat lazily, before erupting in to the towering walls of guitar that have been synonymous with the band for their two decades. Its following track ‘Battered As A Scramble’ that offers another morsel of Mogwai’s esotericism. Guitars, that before felt solid and cohesive, here take on a skittish screech, wailing with Smashing Pumpkins like abandon.
The first album since the departure of John Cummings, it seems fitting that Every Country’s Sun should feel like an album that blatantly looks to the band’s past for inspiration, while constantly looking ahead to the future. Harbouring more urgency and seemingly more passion than previous records; a perfect dichotomy of the melodically morose and the erratically optimistic.
For a band who have busied themselves with TV and film soundtracks in recent times, there’s a certain cinematic quality to much of Every Country’s Sun, something that’s most realised in the sprawling title track. Crafting elegant and ambitious soundscapes has always been at the core of what Mogwai do however, and though recent records have slightly distanced themselves from such aesthetics, Every Country’s Sun embraces them again, and for that it’s all the more striking. An album of the year contender, without a doubt.