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Monday September 22nd 2014

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Ears & Fingers 1/23/14

by Jason Leger

Mogwai-‘Rave Tapes’
It’s very impressive to me that a director can take a grand vision, script it, film it, and cut it down to what Shakespeare called “two hours’ traffic” to make it watchable, and then cull emotions or reactions from the audience. Now take away the visual aspect, and you have what most songwriters accomplish with their music and lyrics, which many people are able to connect with, obviously depending on the context. Then take away the lyrical content and one is left with only the music to stir and be affected by. Among bands who use only the sounds their instruments create to move their listeners, some great names come to mind, such as Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Mogwai are stalwarts within the genre of instrumental post-rock. The Scottish quintet has been at it for almost twenty years, and don’t seem to be losing any steam yet. This month saw the release of their eighth studio album, “Rave Tapes,” and this album finds the band maintaining the stride built way back in 2006 with “Mr. Beast,” and continued through 2011’s “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.”

“Remurdered,” the lead single of “Rave Tapes” was released with the announcement of the impending long player way back in October, and it shows an inventive, electronic side of the band, while sticking to their tradition of slow burning climaxes. Still, the highlight on this album for me is almost an afterthought. Sitting at just under three minutes, “Hexon Bogon” is classic Mogwai, with all the dissonance and contrast desired, as well as a melodic bass line that would be certain to get lauded by Mr. Cliff Burton himself.

Mogwai have built a career and a legacy for creating sound universes that typically feel like they are going to explode by the end of the song, and “Rave Tapes” is no exception to this. “Rave Tapes” is out now via Sub Pop Records.

Marissa Nadler – ‘July’
Marissa Nadler is prolific in some of the most wonderful ways possible. At 32, she is still quite young for someone with six full length albums under her belt, including “July,” her newest, due out February 4. Her voice is of an unmatched type, pained yet at ease, haunting yet angelic, shimmering yet weathered. The Boston Globe wrote, “She has a voice that, in mythological times, could have lured men to their deaths at sea,” and upon listening to “July” just once, I can say that I was fortunate to make it out alive.
It would be foolish, though not overdone, to lump Nadler in with the neo-folk rock surge of the past decade, which has been heavy in female singer-songwriters. While most of her music hinges strongly around her acoustic guitar, she eludes and surpasses being categorized solely as a folk singer and resides nearer to the lines of ambient dream pop drenched in American gothic themes. With my love for Flannery O’Connor, I was drawn to Marissa Nadler.

“July” is at its absolute core mesmerizing and filled with layers of lush compositions, some of which are new territory for Nadler. First single, the airy “Dead City Emily,” was released back in November and provided a glimpse of the whole picture, which left me wanting more. I had a while to wait, as the second single, “Was It a Dream” was just released last week and added a more simplistic, straightforward, and intimate dimension to “July.” The album opens with the words, “If you ain’t made it now, you’re never going to make it.” While I’m not certain that “making it” in a pop world sense is a concern for Nadler, I certainly don’t think she has much to worry about in the realm of gaining notoriety while maintaining integrity. “July” is out February 4 via Sacred Bones Records.