Mogwai - Every Country’s Sun album review

Scottish band Mogwai’s ninth, recorded with Flaming Lips man Dave Fridmann

Mogwai - Every Country’s Sun album artwork

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For 20 years now Mogwai have exemplified the post-rock approach that they first heard in groups like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with their use of space and repetition, and with much of the fine detail embroidered into the fabric of their music rather than worn showily on the outside. In this respect it’s different from a lot of prog both ancient and modern, but achieves a similar net effect in terms of power and scale. The rhythmically restless Old Poisons even finds them wandering across the borderline.

A gale force racket of thrilling power.

Coolverine kicks off with an echoed guitar pattern that reminds of Steve Reich’s 1987 work Electric Counterpoint, with Martin Bulloch’s drumming initially giving sporadic punctuation, and then settling into a shuffle groove beneath spangly guitar arpeggios and lush keyboard currents.

Here producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) has got him a beautiful big live drum sound. He sits nicely on the beat and high in the mix on Party In The Dark one of the few actual songs on the album, never pushing too hard, which gives it an irresistible groove, while in the chorus, cymbals splash around like choppy water. All this is topped with a mesh of synths and guitars and a hazy, swooning vocal straight out of the shoegazing handbook. Crossing The Road Material starts in a ruminative way with a chugging guitar line, until a killer chord change suddenly gives it a boost and from then on the melodic material is constantly developed through subtly deployed and unexpected chord changes.

Mogwai can do “epic” so effectively that it’s a genuine surprise to note that the graceful but colossal sound of 20 Size, which is full of ecclesiastical organ and very secular squalling guitar, lasts under five minutes as it feels like a lot more.

There are some more reflective moments like the slide guitar on the semi-ambient Aka 47, which admittedly ends amid some disquiet, while 1000 Foot Face is a peaceful interlude with a rapt feeling akin to early Spiritualized.

One of the most affecting pieces is the title track, which starts off with rich drones and a spindly, reverby guitar playing a tune that sounds like a sad Scottish air, which ultimately rings out over thundering drums and gale-force guitar racket in a climax of thrilling power.

It’s only having been held in its spell for the best part of an hour that one realises that Every Country’s Sun doesn’t particularly break any new ground. But, with pleasing reliability, Mogwai approach their variations on a number of themes with such a sense of conviction that ultimately that isn’t really the point.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.