Review : Mogwai - Special Moves
PastemagazineAt the start of their first full-length, Mogwai provides a fan testimonial and turns it into a mission statement: “If the stars had a sound, it would sound like this.” Though Young Team was released in 1997, the post-rock quintet has yet to further explain their music. They issue frequent denials to fans and reporters that song titles like “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” and “I Love You, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School” add a layer of depth to their electrifying crescendos, or have any intrinsic meaning at all. “Our music is not stories, just notes,” a founding member once explained.
The same can be said for Special Moves and Burning, Mogwai’s first-ever live releases. These audio and visual recordings, respectively, come from a three-day, sold-out residency at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. They span seven LPs of material—13 years of toying with volume, vocals, pacing and structure; 13 years of fending off pedal-heavy, metal-saturated stagnation.
Yet with Special Moves, it’s hard to tell. In its rendition of breakout hit “Mogwai Fear Satan,” the band removes much of the studio version’s underlying shuffle and brings itself to a near standstill before improvised electric guitar lands like an uppercut following a left hook. Loud moments are louder than ever—but Mogwai’s trademark sonic stream-of-consciousness is more truncated than before. Songs that initially relied on shock value benefit from this no-holds-barred methodology, such as “Like a Herod” and grand finale “Glasgow Megasnake.” But tracks like “Mogwai Fear Satan,”—the gracefully subtle ones—suffer slightly....full text
PluginmusicYou just knew that Mogwai was going to put together something special, or at the very least different, for their first ever live release. The simple meat and potatoes taped sets that seem to be the norm for most bands just doesn’t fit the expansive and immersive music of the Scottish instrumental post-rockers. And the boys don’t disappoint, as CD/DVD companions “Burning/Special Moves” are an audio and visual treat.
“Burning” is quite a stylistic departure from most live DVDs. Rather than edit some raw performance footage together, the band enlisted filmmakers Vincent Moon and Nathanaël Le Scouarnec to capture their three-night April 2009 performance at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. Shot in wonderful black and white, Moon and Le Scouarnec utilize soft focus and purposefully grainy stock where appropriate, and emphasize close-ups and wandering camera work to create a dream-like atmosphere that perfectly matches the music. The end effect looks more like a long-form music video than concert footage, which was presumably the band’s intent. The only real quibble is the length; the DVD is forty-five minutes and eight songs long, half of which are from 2008’s “The Hawk is Howling,” which doesn’t do the rest of Mogwai’s back catalogue justice.
Making up for the DVD’s relative brevity is the accompanying CD, “Special Moves.” With eleven tracks covering all of Mogwai’s six full-lengths, it’s much more representative of the breadth and development of the band’s music. It helps that the sound quality on the disc, as well as on the movie, is fantastic; every note and nuance is crystal clear, and the band plays the absolute hell out of the set. Clearly in a groove, Mogwai are able to jam, adding subtle touches to the original versions of the songs, without sacrificing anything in the way of a tight performance....full text
InsoundVINYL FORMAT. "Post rock pioneers Mogwai are set to release the two disc live album and DVD Special Moves/Burning via Rock Action Records. This film, Burning, is just one of a thousand Mogwai concert films to have ever been made. No, in fact, tens of thousands. How many people have seen the Scots rock band play live since they formed in Glasgow in 1995? That many, anyway. From sci-fi dystopia to kitchen-sink drama, everyone who experiences this band in concert will make a brand new movie in their head every time. Mogwai create their own instrumental soundtrack to the imagination, and it's up to us what we do with it. This isn't a band who tell us what to think, this is a band who show us how much we can feel. For directors Vincent Moon and Nathanaël Le Scouarnec (REM: Supernatural Superserious; Take-Away Shows), the three night residency they recorded at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg in early 2009 presented itself as a modern urban noir thriller, a black-and-white journey which starts on the same electrifying New York streets Bernard Hermann scored for Martin Scorsese. Manholes hiss steam, taxi headlights flare in the camera lens and strangers wait in street corner shadows. Behind it all, 'A Precipice' rises into life, which is as good a place as any to start. A Mogwai gig can often feel like climbing a mountain, or falling off one: whichever feels more likely to remind you that you're alive. In grainy black and white, the show unfolds. The band make their way through a rain-washed Manhattan as 'I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead' hovers like a commuter's MP3 soundtrack in the background; louche New York hipsters congregate before the show as the familiar echoes of 'Hunted By a Freak' kick in; the beatific, nodding faces of the crowd inside are contrasted with the going-to-sleep streets outside. Meanwhile, the finest moments of one of the most individual live bands of our time are perfectly captured in grainy close-up: 'Like Herod's wall of noise; the dreamy 'New Paths to Helicon Pt 1'; 'Mogwai Fear Satan' (speaking of Bernard Hermann, there's a shock worthy sample of Psycho in this song); the funereal 'Scotland's Shame'; strident finale 'Batcat.'...full text
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