Ever-evolving sonically, Scottish band Mogwai have scored three films in addition to releasing eight studio albums. Beginning as a rock-centered band with an atmospheric and enveloping sound, their evolution into soundtrack work is a natural progression for the band. On January 18th, they performed their most recent film collaboration live at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Mogwai collaborated with documentary filmmaker Mark Cousins on his nuclear history documentary ‘Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise’.
Playing along with a screening of the film, the band covered all ten tracks of their official ‘Atomic’ album release and included variations and alterations of several tracks. Admirably committed to their craft, each member of the band had their own monitor showing the film in addition to the theater-sized projection going on behind them. Gentler tracks like ‘Ether’ and ‘Weak Force’ filled the room with waves of effected guitar and synthesizer while heavy-built tracks like ‘Bitterness Centrifuge’ and ‘U-235′ thunderously accompanied the stark visuals of the film. A personal highlight was a five minute harsh noise interlude accompanying the film’s primary depiction of atomic explosions, music not featured on the film soundtrack or in the film itself.
Fans of the band may have been disappointed at the lack of any tracks outside of ‘Atomic’, but I felt that the experience of seeing a completely cohesive overall audio/visual is more worth-while than seeing a band with Mogwai’s history go through their well-known tracks from past releases like ‘Rock Action’ and ‘Mr Beast’. As a band most often seen by their fans in a festival setting, seeing Mogwai in a sit-down theater was odd but extremely rewarding, showcasing the intricacies of a band known for their instrumental prowess up close and personal while cutting out their well-known lack of stage presence. I hope to hear Mogwai further pushing their boundaries into more studio releases and film scores and hope to see more musicians touring behind an audio/visual experience as enveloping as ‘Mogwai plays Atomic’.
By Spencer VH