Music is experiential for most people. The moments we attach to a piece of music may be fleeting – a rain-drenched afternoon, a look shared between friends – or could be seismic – a huge life change, moving out / moving up / moving on. Becoming cemented in the moment with a piece of music is exactly what happened to me upon listening to Every Country’s Sun, Scottish post-rock band Mogwai’s ninth LP. During my first listen, I was driving to my new home; a little nervous, a little excited, intrigued to what the next step in life would look like for me. As motorway signs perpetually pointed ahead towards unknown places, I realised there could be no greater soundtrack to change, be it seismic or minute. Stephen Braithwaite and co. claim that this record was intended as a hideaway, a comfort from the mess of our contemporary world. Whereas fellow British artists like Ghostpoet and Nadine Shah are boldly detailing the disturbing issues of present Britain, Mogwai are the exemplification of wonder, a distraction but most importantly a reminder that all is not lost.
Opening track ‘Coolverine’ wastes no time in establishing the flavour of Every Country’s Sun, each guitar line dripping with this melancholic feeling as the band slowly build the track to its glittering conclusion, making full use of reverb pedals and dynamic drum production. In true Mogwai style, this record flexes through a number of different expressions and moods but despite this Every Country’s Sun feels cohesive in its tone of reverence and beauty; there are tracks here that simmer and others that pummel (Brain Sweeties and Old Poisons respectively) and despite this – of perhaps because of this – that feeling of transcendence flows through everything on offer with this 56 minute album.
The playfully incongruent song titles are still part of Mogwai’s modus operandi, something that has always communicated a level of tongue-in-cheek awareness from the band. Their musical explorations might be monolithic at times, but it feels as if Braithwaite and co are purposefully shielding themselves from the occasionally po-faced world of instrumental post rock. The fact there is a track titled ‘Don’t Believe The Fife’ typifies the personality of Mogwai – we know how to create something achingly beautiful, but we’re still just a bunch of lads from Scotland. I think that approach to their music creation has always meant they feel warmer, closer to their audience than other comparable acts; the titles do not need to communicate the emotional resonance of the tracks simply because the tracks speak for themselves so effectively. ‘Party In The Dark’ is a track that takes a surprising early turn with its unabashed poppy tone and ethereal group vocals, a component the band tend to stray away from the majority of the time. In this early stage the record lays down its striking reflexivity, the ability to go straight from the pensive opener to a more celebratory, almost saccharine sound. This is again reflected in the alluring ‘Crossing the Road Material’, a triumphant chorus that would better suit reaching a mountain summit than sitting in a study writing this review. No matter though, the music makes me feel like I’m experiencing that kind of spiritual grandeur without having to leave my seat. It transports and transforms thoughts via a whirlwind of sprightly and elegant passages, the title track purging every last drop of sentiment with another ascending climax.
In these final throes of the record, what remains in this listener’s thoughts is an appreciation for the complexity and unpredictability of life. It is something many solid post rock albums have succeeded in doing time and time again, but only a select few stay with you long past their running time, resonating through your memories, your hopes and fears. ‘Every Country’s Sun’ says, ‘don’t fear change, everything is going to be ok’. Mogwai achieved that for me on the drive towards my new home, and they achieve a level of emotive instrumental post rock expression that I haven’t heard in a long time. Cheers guys.