Mogwai make music as the moon and sun trade places in a bleak midwinter midnight, marshy reeds frozen stiff bend blithely beside the glaciated shore, and the frozen skins of water slowly revolve in fractal patterns, with accents of oily slickness producing rainbows of agate.
This is a record that begs for the isolation tank treatment. Listeners would do well to close out the world and let the sound envelop them, for these 10 compositions wash beautifully across one’s ears like a gentle tide composed of all the elements of creation that ever were, are, or shall be. Those elements include music, of course; to be sure, there are echoes of sounds and songs that have come before, but this Glaswegian quintet have crafted something new from the vestigial limbs of their forefathers, and the results are majestic and compelling.
Mogwai offer electric guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, but the parts are so complex and so richly layered they add up to more than the sum of their parts.
Like the surface of a calm sea, the album is deceptively simple and placid at first glance, but if properly immersed in the listening process, the complexities abound. How else can one explain the hidden rhythmic intricacies, the rippling musical signatures that weave throughout the songs? It’s criminal to refer to these recordings as songs, really: they are more meditations than songs.
Mogwai offer electric guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, but the parts are so complex and so richly layered they add up to more than the sum of their parts. In addition, there are flourishes of complexity interwoven through each track: it could be a syncopated rhythm or bubbles bursting in a bong (“How To Be A Werewolf”), or a synthesized violin veering over power chords (“Too Raging To Cheers”).Just when the listener believes the compositions are grandiose enough and come with enough layers of instrumentation, Mogwai add on more.
The recorded works here build on the groundwork laid by minimalist guitar pioneers Pell Mell in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and their electronic antecedents from the ’70s, krautrock crusaders Kraftwerk (“Mexican Grand Prix” is reminiscent of their classic Autobahn). “Rano Pano” takes the ominous introduction to The Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way” and jams on it, as if to salute the late George Harrison. The guitars, keyboards, submarine sonar-pinging keyboards and the drums pounding like rain on a tin shack seem to say, “Please, don’t you be very long, George, for I may be asleep” when he returns in his next life.
Although it stands on its own, this is not music composed in a vacuum and thus features some reflections of the current environs. There’s the soundtrack experimentation of Sonic Youth (“You’re Lionel Richie”), the anthemic ambition of Radiohead (“Letters To The Metro”) and the delicate sonic symphonies of Stereolab (“White Noise”). Throughout there are also echoes of the instrumental artistry of Explosions In The Sky and Black Moth Super Rainbow..
While not entirely instrumental, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will might as well be, for the one piece with true vocals has them processed and distorted in such a way as to make them almost indecipherable (so much so that the vocal track might as well be a clarinet). But this instrumental music triggers the philosophical question: Is lack of vocals a cop-out? Is Mogwai stepping up to the precipice but refusing to make the grand leap by not attaching some literal meaning to its compositions, and not taking that giant step by trying to fit vocals into their multi-layered instrumental mix? And if they had vocals over the top of these ten tracks, could they be the next Radiohead? Perhaps yes, but that misses the point. These “songs” don’t need vocals; there is so much happening musically in each track that no listener will miss them; they are complete as they are.
Just as he did with AC/DC for Maximum Overdrive and The Ramones for Pet Sematary, one hopes that Stephen King will select these Scots for his next soundtrack. If not, if there is such a thing as a post-rock revolution, then Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will should be the soundtrack to its Koyaanisqatsi.
Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will Tracklisting
- White Noise
- Mexican Grand Prix
- Rano Pano
- Death Rays
- San Pedro
- Letters to the Metro
- George Square Thatcher Death Party
- How to Be a Werewolf
- Too Raging to Cheers
- You’re Lionel Richie