Gig review: Mogwai at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Mogwai at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Mogwai at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
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Glasgow’s Mogwai have never resolutely aimed for commercial success – which makes it so rewarding that, two decades on from their formation, they’re arguably the biggest post-rock outfit in Britain.

2014’s Rave Tapes saw them crack the top ten at the eighth time of asking; they’ll conclude the year with a massive homecoming gig at the SSE Hydro.

Mogwai at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Mogwai at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Unsurprisingly then, this small, sweaty show – ostensibly opening the new Community Room venue at Leeds’s Brudenell Social Club – feels like a time-warp back to the turn of the century and the Mogwai of old, a sense amplified by their most nakedly emotional output in some years.

Every Country’s Sun, the Glasgow four-piece’s ninth album, has reunited them with producer Dave Fridmann, who worked on 1999’s Come On Die Young and 2001’s Rock Action – and the former Mercury Rev bassist’s fingerprints are all over their new material, as much a sonic throwback as a subtle evolution.

The electronica of their late era remains spectrally in the periphery; guitar-led walls of sound violently reassert themselves in a maelstrom of noise. Mogwai’s knack has always been a mastery of loud-quiet dynamics, white noise in the empty void; in a room the size of a semi-detached garage, it is broodingly, claustrophobically feral.

With half of the set culled from its listings, the band’s new record is well-showcased, from the raw snarly scrawl of Battered at a Scramble to the billowing, echo-laden indie groove occupied by Party in the Dark, the closest the group have perhaps ever cover to a traditional four-minute pop piece.

Mogwai at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Mogwai at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

It is the older tracks that slightly shade crowd reactions though – the bittersweet, monolithic New Paths to Helicon, Part 1, shifts to a cathedral of clamour and back with little warning, whilst Remurdered’s nocturnal techno is a suffocating force-of-nature.

It’s the most painfully elegiac numbers that hit hardest and thrill the most in the end though; Crossing the Road Material melds analogue synth washes with wintery looping licks for an aural sledgehammer that thunders forward desperately; the way that Every Country’s Sun’s glacial title track spirals towards its grief-stricken crescendo is breathtakingly intense and spine-tinglingly haunting. It peaks with a sprawling, searing Mogwai Fear Satan, the swell-and-release dichotomy of its quasi-symphonic movements utterly absorbing and hypnotic.

As opening parties go, there won’t be one quite as cerebral, cathartic and visceral anywhere else, anytime soon.

Nick Hodgson is to release his first solo album in January.

Music interview – Nick Hodgson: ‘I am essentially a musician – whether it’s playing Elland Road or playing some pub, I just love it’