Mogwai's music is a web of contradictions. The band is given to grand gestures, yet the music finds its power in subtlety: Delicate moments accumulate into something bigger than the sum of those parts, and then, for an instant, the bottom drops out. Multi-instrumental and dense, yet the wall of sound is as looming but as light as drifting storm clouds. A band in love with abrasion and all things detuned, yet more brightly melodic than most outfits with an ear tilted to commerce. Dark yet sweet. Tense yet openhearted. Subdued yet vivid.
So it's no surprise, then, that the new Mogwai album, Happy Songs for Happy People, isn't surprising -- and is. Or something. Not surprising in that it continues to cultivate the starry, orchestral sound of 2001's Rock Action, and, like that record, follows on Mogwai's timeworn devotion to post-rock's unsettled dynamics. Which is where, as usual, the surprise comes in: Mogwai makes music the way the earth makes geology, shifting tempo, mood, and dimension like so many tectonic plates. And if every song anticipates a tidal wave -- well, earthquakes always bring you up short, even when you know they're coming. And Mogwai's quakes devastate more than you imagine. Blasting choruses of dissonant guitar ride in on the back of lowing violins and cellos -- and then, amid the rubble, something soft and tender emerges. A flower in nuclear winter. And then something else: a rumination, a dream.
Mogwai, in other words, writes symphonies. Happy Songs for Happy People is a joke title in more ways than one; not only are the tracks on the album not "happy," they're also not really songs. The album is Mogwai's least deconstructible work yet, an organic and exuberant whole ebbing and flowing both within movements and as part of a larger composition. Mogwai works in the oldest of old-school modes, and yet its music sounds irresistibly modern anyway. Another contradiction.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.
More Music News
- 9 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend
Fri., Dec. 4, 7:30pm
Fri., Dec. 4, 8:00pm
Sat., Dec. 5, 8:00pm
Sun., Dec. 6, 3:00pm
- Cave Creek's Legendary Buffalo Chip Saloon Destroyed by "Suspicious" Fire
- 16 Places to Drink on Thanksgiving in Phoenix