Mogwai – Atomic
Post-rock sounds for a post-apocalyptic world
Despite the fact that there are still as many as 15,695 nuclear warheads in existence, popular ideas about nuclear weapons and the science of building them has been reduced from a mortal concern to a morbid curiosity. Once, we prepared for four-minute warnings; now, you can buy tours of the ruins of abandoned Pripyat from black-market guides. On the back of their new album Atomic, a record which seems obsessed with the isotopes and compounds of mass destruction, I think we can safely say that the members of Mogwai are the sorts of chaps who might be up for one of those excursions.
It's hard to find fault with a record of such obvious overall quality, aside from the fact that most of the songs sound a bit downbeat. But that's Mogwai’s thing, isn't it? This is high quality, high precision music that makes you feel like an extra in a sci-fi horror movie, and depressing dirges with too much hi-hat come with the territory.
With that in mind, the most interesting tracks turn out to be those on which Mogwai move away from typical post-rock instrumentation and tinker with electronic and digital sounds. ‘U-235’ and ‘Weak Force’ both lack much in the way of guitars and are better for it, exhibiting the kind of precision the subject matter requires. ‘Are You a Dancer’ proves to be an unexpected treat, blending an austere guitar dissertation with a moving violin solo.
I suppose if you were to pick a band to soundtrack your post-apocalyptic wasteland, you'd get Mogwai in for the job. Maybe you could pay them in rusted bike parts, or ingots of whatever rare earth materials are left in the irradiated desert wastes that were once called Scotland. Clearly Atomic shows they've done their homework, even if the finished product is a little predictable.
Atomic is released on Fri 1 Apr via Rock Action.