Mogwai, Earth Division
Scottish instrumental institution Mogwai continue to soldier on with their latest release, Earth Division. On their 19th effort, they still continue to pursue new ideas; Earth Division is a mellower Mogwai than we normally see, with more piano, lots of strings, and even singing on one song.
The vocal song here is more interesting than the instrumentals — “Hound of Winter” is the best song here by far. It’s a pretty folk song with a beautiful verse melody and a pretty chorus. It also has an interesting string arrangement, pretty fingerpicked melody, and nice accordion accompaniment.
Unfortunately, the rest of the songs on the EP aren’t very interesting. “Get To France” has a tedious melody, and it also doesn’t develop at all — it sound like one part of an orchestrated piece. And since it’s only strings and pianos, there’s nothing else to add to make it more interesting. “Drunk And Crazy” has layers of electronics, with strings and piano and driving electric guitar fading in and out. The noise isn’t very interesting, and it repeats over and over throughout the song. The guitar part isn’t bad, but it’s not enough to save the noise.
“Does This Always Happen” has a prettier guitar line, with piano and strings, but still doesn’t develop as much as it could — it just does same thing over and over, without even a change in dynamics or new instruments. It gets old pretty quickly. The large amount of piano helps make everything sound the same, since everything has to be in its dynamic range.
It says something that Mogwai’s best songs on Earth Division aren’t the instrumental ones. Hopefully it’s not a sign that Mogwai is running out of new instrumental ideas, since that’s how they really distinguish themselves. Songs with vocals are a dime-a-dozen, but good instrumental ones are much more rare. “Hound of Winter” is a pretty song with an ingenious arrangement, but the rest of the songs just aren’t very interesting. Hopefully next time they will come up with more pretty instrumental ideas, too.