By Pat Gunther
Mogwai, in Chinese culture, is a monster that breeds at the onset of rain, which is said to signify full and prosperous times ahead.
This definition ties in perfectly with the music of the Glasgow based quintet that sounds as if it is both the calm before and the storm itself. Since forming in 1995, Mogwai has composed beautiful instrumental heavy tracks abound with influences from the shoe gaze era they first started performing in, and have prospered tremendously since the start.
The rich instrumentation and incredibly beautiful dynamic contrast has become a staple of Mogwai’s music, which varies in styles that range from traditional shoe-gaze rock to more experimental works heavily influenced by the electronic music of the late ’90s and early 2000s. The dichotomy between soft, captivating sounds reminiscent of a light rain shower, and heavy, prog-rock cuts that thunder down upon the listener is what has made Mogwai such an incredible act over the years.
Mogwai’s eight studio albums serve as a testament to their creativity, drive and ability to adapt to the times without sacrificing the sound that makes them so incredibly powerful. The group, unquestionably, has chemistry that is unlike any other act around today. The five central members of Mogwai have all been together since 1998, creating a unity that allows them to feed off of one another seamlessly, resulting in a beautiful and striking sound defined by spontaneity and the cohesiveness of each instrument.
In an industry dominated by pop singles and songs with catchy hooks, Mogwai has been unwavering in their desire to let the instrumentation do the talking. Sparse vocals, if any at all, are often regarded as a signature of their work, and allow their audience to focus on each deliberate strum of the distorted guitar, or the soft and deep bass that serves as the backbone to every track.
Over the course of 19 years, Mogwai has always experimented sonically and taken each album as an opportunity to grow as artists and flesh out uncharted territories for a band that some would classify as “prog rock”. Though they do place a premium on guitar work and soft keys, traditional aspects of rock music, Mogwai’s 2013 Rave Tapes, released on Sub Pop Records in North America, has been the group’s most far-reaching effort thus far.
The signature instrumentation that Mogwai has established is, of course, present on Rave Tapes but is most impressive in the context of the time it was released. The fact that an instrumental heavy effort, in 2013, can be so well-received serves as a reminder to the group that has made their living crafting highly emotional and dreamy sounds that force one to think about his or her own life while being entranced by the tunes.
When the prolific Glaswegians take the stage at the Varsity Theatre on April 26th, fans in attendance can expect to experience a performance nothing short of face melting. The loud, distorted guitar work immediately captures one’s attention and draws you into Mogwai’s meticulously crafted world of riffs and solos with a consistent tickle of piano keys lingering in the background.
In the vain of groups like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, Mogwai has become a fan-favorite of the genre known as shoe-gaze that has developed a cult following in today’s vast landscape of differing sounds and tastes. Attendees of the show will surely spend an evening enjoying the dark and tantalizing melodies and incredible instrumental work of an act that is so consistent; it’s impossible to leave the show disappointed.\