Mogwai Fear Nobody

Mogwai came back to Manchester’s Albert Hall on Sunday night to play to another sold out crowd (they’d played Friday night too). People who went on the first night said I was in for a treat and they were right. Mogwai were stunning. Making noise is easy. Making noise with beauty in it, controlling it and riding it is something else. Mogwai have also hit upon a sweet spot where they can make largely instrumental guitar-heavy music that has huge emotional resonance. Post-rock can sometimes be technically impressive but a bit bloodless, without heart. Mogwai’s tunes, especially the ones off last year’s excellent Every Country’s Sun, hit the spot. Party In The Dark, surging psychedelia crossed with Peter Hook’s bass, is a proper moment, getting me right there.

The group switch instruments around, swapping from bass to guitar or guitar to keyboards, shards of melody escaping through the FX pedal wall of noise. In the fairly compact space of the Albert Hall with its high roof space, Methodist chapel organ pipes still in situ above the stage, the rising waves of guitar cause a few whoops and arms in the air but mainly people stand in silence, swaying slightly. Their use of rhythms, bass and toplines, crescendo, peaks and troughs often make me think that this is a band who are not just post-rock (which is a rubbish description anyway) but post-house too. The lightshow, strips of colour behind them, strobes and spots, add to the intensity. Mogwai work their way through much of the recent lp plus some older ones, a magical Rano Pano and an epic Mogwai Fear Satan. The songs unfold slowly, still and quiet beginnings and endings, sections that create a vast noise, three guitarists and a bassist perfectly in tune with each other, who can then kill it dead. At times, there’s so much going on in the mix that its difficult to tell who is doing what. At the end of the set three of them are on their knees at the front of the stage, manipulating their pedals, playing the howling feedback and distortion. At the close of the encore Stuart is last off, again fiddling with the buttons on his pedals before leaving and the roadies appearing to turn the amps off. My only complaint is that they didn’t play The Sun Smells Too Loud. I’m not sure I can forgive them for that actually, as it would have taken the top of my head clean off given the form they are in.

Mogwai Fear Satan

I caught the last two-and-a-bit songs by support act, electronic trio Beak>, who were busy being very good indeed- live synths and samples, bass and Geoff Barrow’s krautrock drumming. The new one they finished with, which they promised they’d get wrong, sounded ace- and they didn’t get it wrong either.

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Beak> ‘I Know’

I got a track by these towards the end of last year, liked it and then forgot all about it until a friend of mine saw them live recently. Beak> are Portishead mainman Geoff Barrow’s other band. A three piece specialising in krauty grooves, with Barrow on drums. I wasn’t totally knocked out by last year’s Portishead album- easy to admire but more difficult to love, but the krautrock and Silver Apples influences were good. This is more live sounding and doesn’t sound like Portishead at all, more on the lines of Holy Fuck, that kind of thing.

Incidentally, Beak> were supporting Chris Cunningham, the Aphex Twin etc video man, who put together a visual and sound montage/performance, with plenty of material of ‘an adult nature’ and more besides. Various sounds triggered various images and so on. According to CJ, my friend who went as part of a foursome, it was pretty extreme, the females in the party were less than impressed, and the whole night was quite uncomfortable. Which was possibly the whole point. Although he did say Beak> were very good.

4shared.com – online file sharing and storage – download I Know.mp3