Album Review: Mogwai – As the Love Continues

By Ethan Bloomfield, Staff Writer
[Temporary Residence; 2021]
Rating: 7/10

Key tracks: “To the Bin My Friend”, “Tonight We Vacate Earth”, “Drive the Nail”

Post-rock is a genre dominated by textures. Soundscapes are crafted, layering electronic instrumentals and guitars over complex percussion to form a musical experience, casting aside the usual structure of the rock genre. Scottish band Mogwai are no exception to this. Twenty-four years after the exceptional Young Team LP, the band is still releasing music, and their new studio album, As the Love Continues, does a delightful, though safe, job delivering the shimmery haze and atmosphere that their style of post-rock employs.

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The opening track, “To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth”, is nothing short of grabbing. It opens with a textured vocal sample, yet lyrics are scant on this album. Echoey pianos, and a softly thumping beat drive the first part of the track, as more percussion and moody guitar plucking are added to build to the eventual payoff: a soft yet large wave of fuzzy guitar noise and live drumming that washes over the listener. It fades out peacefully into what is, admittedly, a stark change of pace. 

The next track is so different that it feels alien. The wholly synthetic opening of “Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever”, with its cold beat and vocals behind so many layers of effects that it is indistinguishable from any other instrument, feels strange with only the context of the last track. Even this, though, with its large contrast, still delivers the buildup and growth of instrumental elements that come to a grand crescendo in the final minute. Musically, it is a very satisfying listen, even if it is a bit of a self-indulgent underwhelming moment on the record.

The serene yet loud “Dry Fantasy” takes the electronic influences to greater heights on the album, blending them seamlessly into organic sounds to create an almost liquid and floaty soundscape, like a chaotic interpretation of a Beach House or a Slowdive cut. This is surely one of the shining points of the record, showcasing a mastery of both synthetic and organic sounds in a way that is easy to sit back and relax to. 

The next track, “Ritchie Sacramento”, is the only occasion when traditional vocals appear over the entire track. The distorted guitar lead in the chorus provides a needed varied texture to the relatively smooth and melancholy track, and the echoey, despondent vocals blend right into the instrumentation without being too intrusive. This balance is a hallmark of the album, mixing every sound in to create a cohesive whole without a single instrument or effect overstepping another. This, while impressive, does not work 100% to the benefit of the album. Sometimes, the music sort of loses its own place in the mind, and I find myself putting it in the background instead of listening intently, especially on the smoother cuts like “Midnight Flit”. 

Songs like “Drive the Nail” and “F— Off Money” show off the rock guitars seldom seen up to this point, and the relative heaviness is a welcome refresher. These tracks drive the “grandness” factor of the project up considerably with these loud walls of intricately laid instrumentals without feeling like cheap emotional grabs or overdone production. It feels like the scale that an Imagine Dragons cut always tries to pretend it is.

“Supposedly, We Were Nightmares” picks up speed with sparkly synth runs and background vocals to achieve a much more upbeat tone, coasting smoothly into the last track, the moody “It’s What I Want to Do, Mum”. While the track builds from the low-and-slow guitar at the beginning to a final, rousing crescendo full of the same crackling guitars, ethereal synth noise and tasteful percussion that we have been treated with, it ends quietly, fading back down into the skeleton of the track, playing itself out a single guitar and then silence. 

Mogwai created an experience. As the Love Continues, while not musically all over the place, lightning quick or full of clever wordplay or storytelling, was captivating throughout most of the 11 tracks. Through musicianship alone, they have created a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end — and one that is satisfying at that. This record does not break any ground unseen by the post-rock sphere up to this point, and the flow of the tracks sometimes makes it hard to distinguish where one is in the album without any sort of landmark. However, the wonderful soundscapes and musical scenery always leave something to appreciate, and for that, this record is a very easy recommendation. 

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