It is rare to hear of a band that has been going for as long as Mogwai have with no disappointments or mistaken creative left-turns. The post/prog rock masters – Stuart Braithwaite (guitar, vocals), Barry Burns (guitar, piano, synthesizer, vocals), Dominic Aitchison (bass guitar), and Martin Bulloch (drums) – have advanced without a plan since they were teenagers, and have reached their tenth studio album with credibility unimpeached.
Unable to perform the album live for the time being, Braithwaite hopes the music can take you somewhere different from where you are, “unless you are somewhere really amazing – and then why are you listening to some weird music like this?”
Weird? Nah, Pink Floyd were weird, back in the 60s, and that was just breaking new ground. No, there is something reassuringly comforting about Mogwai’s music. You may know what to expect but you will never get the same. There is always an edge to make the experience both transcendent and surprising. As The Love Continues shows that Mogwai are still offering solace from the mundane, supplying the soundtrack to whatever movie you are making in your head, mood music with a melodic hook for every occasion.
As The Love Continues is the follow up to 2017’s Every Country’s Sun, Mogwai’s second Top 10 album in a row following 2014’s Rave Tapes. The plan was to record the new album in America but the pandemic led to a relocation to Worcestershire while producer Dave Fridmann remained separated by an ocean. This pandemic necessity was quickly routine and it also bought Mogwai time to create a truly polished piece.
A quick nod to the Floyd, the album opens with To The Bin My Friends, Tonight We Vacate Earth, and a recording of one of their friends mumbling the nonsense phrase in his sleep. The music begins in a dream-like trance, building slowly throughout it’s five minutes and eight seconds to a killer hypnotic riff and a magnificent final crescendo, setting the controls for a journey into the cosmos.
Dry Fantasy was the first track from the album to be premiered, a celestial track centred around a reverberating synth repetition, which reaches a state of dreamlike grandeur, as guitars and bass drift in and out. The track is accompanied by a video directed by Vaj.Power which draws interspersing images of blossoming flowers with the gnarled surfaces of a distant planet.
Sing-a-long anthems are a rarity in Mogwai-land but on Ritchie Sacramento they would have appeared to struck gold. Supported by quietly melodic vocals, it oscillates between moments of tranquillity and disorder and is as close to commercial and radio-friendly as they get. A video for the track was created within the Unreal Games Engine by director Sam Wiehl, who has previously collaborated with Ladytron, Forest Swords and the Valentino fashion house, and created a small first-person multi-level computer game for the song, which then formed the animations and narratives for the video.
“Ritchie Sacramento’s title came from a misunderstanding a friend of ours had about how to say Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japanese composer well known for his work with Yellow Magic Orchestra)”, says Braithwaite. “The lyrics were inspired by a story Bob Nastanovich shared about his friend and (Silver Jews) bandmate David Berman (who died in 2019) who proclaimed “rise crystal spear” as he threw a shovel at a sports car. The song is dedicated to all the musician friends we’ve lost over the years.”
Drive The Nail builds on the solid rhythm lines of the Aitchison and Bulloch while F**k Off Money is a slow interlude driven by Burns’ spaced-out synthesizer. Mogwai have a history of strange song titles from random sources, none more so than Ceiling Granny, a showcase for Braithwaite’s hard-rocking Big Country riff. Atticus Ross brings his synthesizer to the party for the brooding Midnight Flit while Colin Stetson adds some atmospheric clarinet to Pat Stains.
Over the past quarter of a century Mogwai have become one of the most important groups of a fragmented but potent British musical underground. They have steadfastly refused to sit back and rest on their laurels, always looking for a new angle and never failing to inspire. There is nothing outrageously flash about As The Love Continues but an
understated brilliance the underlines just what a class act Mogwai are.