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Mogwai’s second album on Sub Pop, Rave Tapes, starts out on a slow-burning wavelength of ambient electronica, eventually building to Bill Frisell-esque jazz-rock grooves. A mystique broods around the namesake, and midway through the stylistic exploration on “Repelish,” a narrator talks about Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” being the most popular song in rock history, but there isn’t any overt sonic implication. The narrator then mentions how subliminal satanic messages were put on records in reverse while a decidedly unsatanic melody moves in and out.
The guitar spotlight shines brightest in “Hexon Bogon” with its exploding delay, and the next few tracks are an impressive procession of thumping percussion and distorted bass drones illuminated with bright solos and jabbing synthesizers. Mogwai certainly knows space well and has been successful with scoring, and this conjures feelings of flying or perhaps being embroiled in an epic action sequence of a video game.
These nuanced instrumental compositions would be perfectly at home with lyrics, their solid foundations topped with pleasingly funky layers, à la Tool or Radiohead. A few vocals are present, but the sense of their purpose is yet unclear. I might have to find Rave Tapes on vinyl, play it backwards, and see what happens.
Must-hear track: “Hexon Bogon”