With collaborators like Atticus Ross and Colin Stetson onboard, iconic post-rock band Mogwai have returned with As The Love Continues.
The release of Mogwai’s new album As The Love Continues coincides with the 25-year anniversary of their first single. For a post-rock band, this is no small feat. So much can change in a quarter of a century.
On March 18 – the same day that Mogwai’s first-ever single Tuner/Lower was released – the OJ Simpson trial was still going, the oncoming existential terror of social media was still a decade out, and R. Kelly’s Down Low was climbing the Billboard charts. In 2021, the only thing R. Kelly would be climbing is a rope made from bedsheets out of his prison window.
It’s no secret how difficult of a task it is to maintain relevance as a band over 25 years, but even so, it’s hard to try and find a similar post-rock band that’s had as lively a trajectory as Mogwai.
With the release of their debut album Young Team, Mogwai opened their career with a bang; almost instantly cementing themselves among artists like Slint, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Sigur Ros into the post-rock hall of fame.
They were crafting some of the moodiest and dynamic ventures into instrumental rock music ever known, incorporating gut-wrenching elements of noise and feedback into seven-plus minute songs that were sure to shatter any similarly emotional teen’s glass bong as they lay smashed out in a bean bag chair.
And they only continued to deliver on albums like Come On Die Young (known as CODY to fans), and the ironically named Happy Songs for Happy People. But whilst Mogwai’s output since 2003 has been consistent (dropping an album every two to three years), it seems like they’ve taken this time to add as many average albums to their discography as good ones.
As is the way of a band’s evolving sound, their attempts to update and improve upon the original Mogwai formula have been met with great success on albums like 2011’s epically titled Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, but has also led to the production of some less-engaging cuts like 2013’s Rave Tapes.
And though they departed on a high note with the Dave Fridmann-produced Every Country’s Sun in 2017, is this year’s As The Love Continues a worthy successor? Dave’s back behind the desk, and the tracklisting includes exciting collaborators like Atticus Ross and Colin Stetson, but does ATLC fall into the band’s collection of heaters?
As The Love Continues opens with the comedically titled To the Bin My Friend, Tonight we Vacate Earth, and straight off the bat, it’s clear that Mogwai has finally taken the seemingly compulsory step of any 25-year-old band towards electronica.
What begins with the traditional guitar and drums instrumentation and dreamy chord progression that post-rock has become known for, soon drops into a weighty crash of crunchy synthesised guitar tones amidst a sprinkling of gated modular synths. Does it fit the Mogwai formula? Definitely! Does it sound good? Mostly!
In fact, most of the first half of this record suffers from what feels like a lack of direction. I don’t mean the usual post-rock ‘I’m going to stare at my bedroom ceiling and let the music wash over me’ lack of direction, but a bit of a blind meandering between a couple of chords.
In fact Here We, Here We Go Forever left me slightly nervous for the rest of the record, in that it failed to mesh the band’s new elements of electronica (the chiptune drums and over-distorted vocoder) with the band’s signature crunchy guitar tones, and ended up combining them together like icing sugar on a plate of nachos.
However, As The Love Continues definitely has its highlights. Ceiling Granny is a kind return to hardcore for Mogwai with tastefully blistering guitars, and whilst it could be argued that Colin Stetson is under-utilised on the track, Pat Stains provides the nostalgic ‘lost in the woods’ feel of the outfit’s earlier work.
And when the electronica blend works on this record, it works incredibly well. On Midnight Flit, Ross uses his Nine Inch Nails expertise to show the boys how to walk the line, incorporating bright and sparkly synth elements and strings into an apocalyptic mess that really elevates the Mogwai formula into one of their most spine-chilling climaxes to date.
It’s bombastic, ear-piercing, intense, and finds a way to just keep climbing, even though it already left the ceiling in pieces on the floor.
Like a microcosm of the band’s career, the tracks that populate As The Love Continues veer from rich emotional peaks to spacious jams that draw you into a state of contemplation. It’s not free from frustrations – but this isn’t a band that’s eager to please. 25 years into an experimental career, it’s fascinating to witness Mogwai continue exploring post-rock, and wrestle with its artistic evolution.
As The Love Continues is out now. Stream or purchase the album here.