Mogwai enter their 25th year together at a time when the world seems to have remodelled itself to fit the apocalyptic soundscapes of Glasgow's finest post-rock pioneers. What's most remarkable is their continued prolificacy and reliability - after 25 years together, there are not many bands who deliver the goods like Mogwai do.
The band's latest soundtrack, for Amazon's new Italian organised-crime drama 'Zerozerozero', is their fifth such commission in the last seven years. Add to that three studio albums, several EPs, a career-spanning retrospective, and two live albums, the band might be forgiven for running out of steam - but far from it; 'Zerozerozero' finds Mogwai in vital form.
Since helping pioneer post-rock in the 90s, Mogwai have been careful not to fall back on tropes of the genre, continually experimenting with vocals and non-standard instrumentation, whilst also avoiding the po-faced nature of some of their peers. And so, the piecemeal nature of the soundtrack album suits Mogwai perfectly, allowing them to dip in and out of styles and sounds with confidence and ease.
Over 21 tracks, most falling in the three or four minute mark, and none stretching over five, the band deftly explore the width of their sonic palate. 'I'm Not Going When I Don't Get Back', and the characteristically humorously titled 'Nose Pints', delve into industrial territory, with malevolent synth lines recalling fellow alternative stalwarts turned professional soundtrackers Nine Inch Nails. 'Lesser Glasgow' evokes the electronic drone of Fuck Buttons, while Rivers Wanted sees the band spirit John Carpenter and go full 80's horror.
The problem with many soundtrack albums is they often feel slightly rudderless without the counterpoint of their subject, but tracks such as 'Don't Make Me Go Out On My Own' work as both a fittingly tense soundtrack, and as a standalone moment of beauty. The gentle 'Moon In Reverse' and the ambient delicacy of 'El Dante' would take pride of place on any of their studio records, while the folk tinged acoustic melodrama of 'Witches Of Alignment' could be a Nick Cave instrumental.
Mogwai have been incredibly consistent throughout their career, and while fans may yearn for a studio album which provides its own narrative, there are not many bands that can be relied upon to release 68 minutes of such diverse and dynamic quality. And while 'Zerozerozero' may not provide the long-term satisfaction of their studio records, as bitesize chunks of ominous doom and melancholy go, it's a masterful collection from a band who enter their second quarter century as essential as ever.
Words: David Weaver
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