211

Mogwai: Earth Division EP

By

Sign in to view read count
Mogwai: Earth Division EP Even when tending to the minimalistic, the music of Scottish post-rock instrumentalists Mogwai has always been about grandeur—atmospheric swells of guitars and keyboards stacked relentlessly atop each other in suffocating layers, jarring transitions from near-silent white noise to frightening explosions of high-decibel distortion. In the fourteen years since the release of its debut Young Team (Chemikal Underground, 1997), Mogwai has carved out a comfortable niche for itself between these two extremes, perfecting a variation on alternative rock's loud-soft dynamic that manages, at its best, to render both the grit and delicacy of indie rock's instrumental foundation almost classical in scope. Still, the occasional stray influence aside (see The Hawk is Howling (Matado[, 2008] for some endearing flirtations with electronica), Mogwai rarely diverts from its fundamental aesthetic—moody instrumentals done big—and the organically grown consistency is at once its sharpest asset and greatest frustration.

What's improved—and what's so often overlooked—are the compositions. Mogwai's early albums, while often more blunt about its intentions dynamically, were rarely improved by the tentative, almost obscure compositional approach that pervaded—if not defining—the group. But recent recordings like The Hawk is Howling and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Sub Pop, 2011)—despite critical objections to the high-dollar clarity with which they seem to have been recorded—have increasingly born witness to sneaky melodic passages that enhance the net worth of the music in a manner entirely different from Mogwai's signature ambiance and bombast. These are cuts like Hawk's "Thank You Space Expert" and Hardcore's "Rano Pano"—pieces in which a plainly hummable melody's battle against merciless texture unfolds in a manner that feels almost heavy, in the literal sense.

Released as a companion piece to Hardcore, the brief, toned-down Earth Division EP functions as perhaps Mogwai's most efficient compositional showcase to date. Clocking in at just under seventeen minutes, the principal artistic space occupied by its four tracks is a kind of tuneful minimalism—the kind of thing one might expect to hear as the score for a Stanley Kubrick flick starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as an alienated married couple given to disturbing sexual deviance. The centerpiece, "Drunk and Crazy," begins with tempestuous bursts of static, sustained for several minutes before dissolving, in its second movement, into the sort of minor-key chamber music that characterizes much of the rest of the EP—deceptively simple, yet thoughtfully arranged to the note, and empowered by the cinematic qualities inherently present in Mogwai's music.

Like "Drunk and Crazy," the opening "Get to France" and closing "Does This Always Happen?" are equal parts beautiful and spooky, downcast conversation pieces for piano that play almost like desolately cynical holiday classics. In both tracks, a tinnier second piano answers a more full-bodied first in a manner that almost feels mocking, but they're arranged so artfully—and produced so spaciously—that the instruments feel appropriately complementary rather than irksomely at odds. Consequently, this innocuous little add-on ends up reaping great pleasures; a program of music by a mood band where the tunes are the most important thing.


Track Listing: Get to France; Hound of Winter; Drunk and Crazy; Does This Always Happen?

Personnel: Stuart Braithwaite: guitar, vocals; John Cummings: guitar, vocals; Barry Burns: guitar, piano, synthesizer, vocals; Dominic Aitchison: bass; Martin Bulloch: drums.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sub Pop


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Duopoly" CD/LP/Track Review Duopoly
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 26, 2016
Read "Up North" CD/LP/Track Review Up North
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 17, 2017
Read "Il Dodicesimo Nano" CD/LP/Track Review Il Dodicesimo Nano
by Jim Olin
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "Everything's Beautiful" CD/LP/Track Review Everything's Beautiful
by Asher Wolf
Published: July 18, 2016
Read "One For Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland" CD/LP/Track Review One For Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 5, 2016
Read "Beginning of A Memory" CD/LP/Track Review Beginning of A Memory
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 15, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!