Rave Tapes

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(Rock Action)

How to sound like yourself without repeating yourself?

After 18 years of consistently brilliant recordings - not to mention their mind-blowing live shows - Mogwai have surely joined the likes of Tom Waits and those relatively few musicians with a proven knack for solving that problem with every new release.

Mood-wise, this one has more in common with last year's soundtrack for the French ghost/zombie series Les Revenants than the generally zippy and bright-eyed previous album Hardcore Will Never Die. Ominous, nocturnal, iced-over with analogue electronics, it's colder and clearer than anything they've ever done, with sonic reference points that might range from Brian Eno to Brad Fiedel's score for The Terminator.

Dialling back on their core dynamic tendency to merge and boil waves of noise and melody, each component part sounds more airy and isolated here, the guitars a bit less likely to explode, and the rhythms cut loose enough to allow for a frosty kind of funk on Hexon Bogon and Master Card.

Democratic as this band may be, their keyboard-player Barry Burns seems to preside over this album, dominating the most sinister and emotive tracks - Remurdered, Deesh, No Medicine For Regret - like the Phantom of the Opera hunched over a Eurorack modular synthesiser.

Stephen Phelan