Mogwai -‘Atomic.’ (Rock Action)
The late, great John Peel used to say about his favourite band The Fall, that they were ‘always different, always the same.’ It’s something that could be said about Mogwai, too. ‘U-235’ was the first track to do the rounds ahead of the release of this album, and the minute the listener presses play, it is unmistakeably them. It may sound a little bit more ‘electronic’ than some of their work, but the soundscape of darkness and beauty, dread and possibility could not be anyone else. Yes there’s other post-rock bands out there, but no-one could do Mogwai like Mogwai do.
It’s not the first time Mogwai have leant themselves for soundtrack work – they have previously soundtracked both the French TV series Les Revenants (The Returned) and Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. In this case, this album is composed of reworked versions of the music recorded by the band for the soundtrack to director Mark Cousin’s documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise. Though I should probably declare that I have yet to see the film – the strength of the work is that it appears to fill the brief, as described in the press release – ‘Constructed entirely of archive film, an impressionistic kaleidoscope of the horrors of our nuclear times – protest marches, Cold War sabre-rattling, Chernobyl and Fukishima – but also the sublime beauty of the atomic world, and how x-rays and MRI scans have improved human lives.’ I mentioned dread and possibility in the last paragraph – that’s exactly what this soundtrack does. Evocative, in a word. Right from the start of album opener ‘Ether’ up to the closing bars of ‘Fat Man.’
As with much of their music, each listen reveals something more of this album. It may not rate as their greatest achievement, but for those who are new to Mogwai, this is a good place to start. For those who have loved the band for decades, it adds a new chapter to what is already an impressive tale. Mogwai probably vie with Belle & Sebastian for greatest band in Scotland at the moment; both acts are now beginning their third decade of music, and neither show any signs of slowing down. For which lovers of great music across the planet should give thanks.
Atomic is out now on Rock Action