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.
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.
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.