by Jeff Niesel
The Scottish post-rock band Mogwai, which plays at House of Blues on Wednesday, has a singular sound and vision. Take “Remurdered,” a song from its eighth studio album Rave Tapes, another set of compelling mood-altering, mostly instrumental tunes. The song has a whimsical feel, yet it was inspired by a gruesome act.
“A friend of mine was in Glasgow and was telling me about a guy who had been attacked and the guy who attacked him had stabbed him with a knife and rolled him up in a carpet and they were going to bury him the next day,” says keyboardist-guitarist Barry Burns. “When they went back to bury him, he was gone. He had survived. I thought it was amazing. My friend said that they found him the next day and remurdered him. It was so dark.”
Those kind impulses inform the songs on Rave Tapes, which the band recorded at its own Castle Of Doom studios in Glasgow, Scotland, with producer Paul Savage (he also worked on its 2011 Sub Pop album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will). The band has honed that skill over a 20-year career — Burns joined the group in 1998 for its breakthrough album Come On Die Young.
“It was pretty exciting for me,” he says. “That’s when we were doing the Come On Die Young record with Dave Fridmann just outside Buffalo and it was all very new for me. It’s been great. We’ve grown up together as a band. It’s still very enjoyable. There are sacrifices to be made with regard to not hanging out with my wife. It’s getting difficult, but it’s still lots of fun. I think before I joined there wasn’t someone who could play the piano. I could play a little guitar too. I think they wanted to broaden the sound of the band. I wanted to write songs for the band as well. It helped that there was another writer.”
The band's atmospheric music is well-suited to film soundtracks too. The band recorded the music that composer Clint Mansell wrote for the Darren Aronofsky 2006 flick The Fountain and it also did the score for Zidane, Douglas Gordon's experimental documentary a soccer player. The group is currently working on music for the French TV show called The Returned.
And while Burns says Mogwai has toned down the visuals for this tour to focus on lights rather than video images, he says the band still loves to play loud.
“This guy Kenny who’s an old friend of ours does sound and he tell us how loud it is,” Burns says. “It’s pretty devastating. It’s hard on the eardrums. It’s painful. We are very careful about it. I wouldn't like to see us live.”