People gush about Mogwai, a lot. And rightfully should they. The boys of Glasgow are some of the poster children of post-rock. Mogwai is the band to be compared to, and the band compared to everything. With good reason though, as the band has been able to channel every emotion possible through music quite successfully throughout each album.
This latest album is a soundtrack to "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait," an interesting film using 17 cameras to focus on the French football star's every move through the course of one match. Supposedly, Mogwai was approached by the film's director and the band agreed to do the score without seeing the entire film. Also supposedly, the band was told to make each song convey a different emotion.
Regardless of whether either of those assumptions is true is beyond the point. This soundtrack is hardly breathtaking in its originality with many of the songs relying on the ambient improvisational style that peppered Come on Die Young. For people that were just starting to get into the more structured Mr. Beast, do not be discouraged, because to give up now would just be too much.
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is a beautiful landscape of sound where Mogwai has retreated back to where it came from. The opening track "Black Spider" shambles forward in an innocent manner, devoid of any anger or hatred, but still packs the intensity and emotion through timely placed acoustic twangs, soft crescendos and rousing decrescendos.
Songs like "Wake Up and Go Berserk" and "Half Time" showcase the spacey cosmic sound Mogwai is so well-known for. Non-sensical acoustic guitars are barely audible over a constant, yet gentle distortion, so quiet that you can even hear the fingers move up and down the neck of the guitar. Each song carries a different move, however subtle that difference may be. Overall, the soundtrack is very mellow, showcasing the forced calm in one of the loudest arenas possible.
The album closes out with the incredibly long "Black Spider 2," which doesn't even beign until after three minutes of near silence. It picks up, but not too much before dying off again for a few more minutes, and five minutes before the thirty-minute opus is finished, the thrill of the game and the noise of the stadium becoming well-apparent through a constant chugging, guitar shredding, amp destroying, noise.
This is the Mogwai album people from the beginning would know and love. It pushes the post-rock sound to dark and deep corners, but it does so thoughtfully and with grace. There is not a single word to be uttered on Zidane: A 21st Century, and for those that have seen the movie, it is all too fitting of a soundtrack. It's an impressive feat in this day and age where soundtracks are generally filled with whatever record label offers whatever song. The art of soundtracks seemed to be lost, but Mogwai still knows how it's done, and for those that are willing to hit play and relax, you'll be well-rewarded for your efforts.