One thing that Mogwai has proven over and over again on previous albums like Rock Action and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will is that they have a knack for making superb guitar-based instrumental cuts that rarely tend to drone on. After three years away from the studio, Mogwai delivers yet another chilling chapter of their storied history with Rave Tapes.
Rave Tapes begins with the stellar opener “Heard About You Last Night.” The drums crash in after a minute long intro and at that moment it becomes perfectly clear that you’re in for something amazing. Different sounds continue to build, yet nothing fully culminates; it’s only the beginning. The album spins down a more eerie path with the Kubrick-esque “Remurdered” which subtly sends shivers down your spine as the lo-fi guitar riffs shred through the tension while the on-again off-again drums keep pace as you continue to explore more of what this album has to offer. It is immediately followed by “Hexon Bogon” which is the most rocking, albeit succinct offering on Rave Tapes, clocking in at a meager (by Mogwai standards) two and a half minutes long.
Unfortunately, the gents from Glasgow aren’t without their flaws on this go around. They outsmart themselves on “Repelish”, the fifth song on the record, with four minutes of obnoxious commentary in the form of an awkward and unnecessary PSA about classic rock critiques and satanic worship. “Simon Ferocious” sees Mogwai fall into a rut early with a bland keyboard loop that forces their audience to advance to the next track without genuinely exploring all that the song could potentially offer. These two songs interrupt (and nearly destroy) the momentum that the band has so carefully conjured up on Rave Tapes and offer the only negative critique of the album; Mogwai falls short on experimenting with new sounds that they don’t quite “fit” with.
Alas, all is not lost. They rebound with “Mastercard” which sees the band ebb and flow in a way that they do best. They showcase guitars, looped keys and odd time signature beats. “Blues Hour” is a sedated, piano-driven song which shows off amazing range, while the final two tracks compliment the vibe previously instilled, eventually dissipating in a non-spectacular yet appropriate way with a cadence that lesser bands can only dream of.
Moreover, what defines Mogwai is the ever building crescendo, as showcased in “Deesh” and while earlier songs may end up with more overall listens, this is the sound that keeps Mogwai’s fan base holding on. Something momentous and epic. Something constructing and evolving. Really, something that feels more tangible than just a song. This is exactly what keeps you listening and anxiously awaiting for the next song while offsetting the missteps made on a couple of poorly planned tracks throughout Rave Tapes.