Mogwai and I first met in high school. I was immediately hooked. “Mogwai Fear Satan” was the perfect crushing instrumental hymn for lounging back against a locker, eyes focused on nothing in particular, in my Catholic high school hallways. Since then, Mogwai and I have both done some growing up. They have now released eight studio albums and a handful of EPs. Wailing, distorted guitars have married synths of all descriptions, and sudden shifts in contrast have made way for more gradual transitions and nearly club-style climaxes.
I was a little nervous about spending time with my old friend. Over time, songs like “Cody” (Come On Die Young), and “Like Herod” (Young Team) became the soundtracks to a thousand scenes of my youth. But it’d been a few years since we were close. You know how it can be: you’ve walked different roads for a while, and when you eventually meet up again, it can be strange. Something that you can’t exactly put your finger on is different, and it can leave you craving the memories instead of the reality. I hadn’t listened to “new Mogwai” in a handful of years. Would it be the same?
It was with this sort of wary anticipation that I flopped into my armchair, strapped on my best noise cancelling headphones, and prepared to dive into a visit with my dear old friend, Mogwai, and their newest EP, Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1.
Released as a complement to the recent critically-acclaimed full-length Rave Tapes, the EP Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1 is a perfect example of what I think of as “new Mogwai” and “old Mogwai.” The six songs on this EP feature three new songs conceived during the Rave Tapes sessions, and three astute mixes by some great electronic talent.
The biggest surprise on the EP came right away with the opening track, “Teenage Exorcists”. I think this might be the most conventionally sung, radio-friendly track I’ve ever heard from them. It’s the biggest departure from the standard Mogwai formula, but after the shock wears off and you realize that you are still listening to Mogwai, the quality of the song becomes apparent. Along with “Re-Remurdered,” I think it’s the strongest track on the EP, despite being one of the most daring and different. This EP was the perfect venue for releasing this song, which would have had a hard time on another album but should not have been completely forgotten.
The old and the new show themselves equally on the next two songs, “History Day” and “HMP Shaun William Ryder”. Elements of “classic Mogwai” are present in both with the “loud-quiet-loud” formats and the epic finales. Both songs showcase layers of synthetic percussion, guitars drenched in effects, beautifully clean grand piano, and battalions of synths. Of the two, “HMP Shaun William Ryder” is the stronger track. “History Day,” while good, did not seem to achieve the same emotional connection that Mogwai consistently evoke in their other work.
Things really start to get interesting with the final three tracks, all remixes. The first, amusingly titled “Re-Remurdered (Blanck Mass Remix),” has the characteristic dark side qualities brought by Benjamin John Power (of Fuck Buttons notoriety). With 8-bit elements, swelling lasers, and nearly jungle-like beats, this version is extremely danceable and reminiscent of a battle scene in a video game. This is one instance where I almost like the remix better than the original.
Next, “No Medicine For Regret (Pye Corner Remix)” – a wave-bending intro of shifting pitches and slow beats that gradually transforms into a classic house mix courtesy of veteran electronic artist Pye Corner. Holding a building guitar wall on repeat and then chilling right down into a fade-out at the end with some fat bass additions in between, this track starts out as Mogwai and finishes as something else.
The EP closes with “The Lord Is Out Of Control (Nihls Frahn Remix).” Frahn makes this his own while still keeping the Mogwai aesthetic intact. Here, the piano is queen, emphasized by the filtering of the blended instruments into components, only to rush back through the door with a full array of instrumentation. The heavy parts seem heavier, and the piano clearer and more emotive. The vocorder vocals are muted, secondary to the beat and the piano. Not as danceable than the other remixes, this song stands alone as a beautiful piece of music.
Overall, this EP was great. After a few good listens, it was almost possible to forget that I was listening to new Mogwai and not old Mogwai. My relationship with Mogwai seems to have remained intact despite the difference of years, like a great pair of jeans that get more comfortable, wearing in instead of wearing out. As “Teenage Exorcists” and “Re-Remurdered” make their way through my playlist over the years, maybe they will become the soundtracks for new memories.
Written by Kate Erickson