Mogwai, Edinburgh HMV Picture House 21/2/11

 A Mogwai gig is still one of the very best reasons that exists to risk a bout of tinnitus

 A Mogwai gig is still one of the very best reasons that exists to risk a bout of tinnitus

As the band embark on the final track of the main part of their set, Barry Burns is shaking his head. Unable to get his guitar to emit any sound he fiddles first with the instrument, then with the wires and finally with the settings on the amp before deciding that a non-audible presence is clearly superfluous and exiting the stage. It says much about Mogwai that even with one man down in their aural assault that Batcat is still a furiously visceral sonic attack. They have always been a band able to bring the noise and tonight is no exception.


Whilst briefly reduced to a four-piece, at other stages their numbers are supplemented by the talents of Luke Sutherland, a frequent Mogwai collaborator, must recently to the band’s latest album Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. It is on that album’s opener (and the starter for the evening’s show) that his presence is first felt with  the sound of his violin adding to the aural mix on ‘White Noise’. It is however on the mid-set Christmas Steps that his contribution is more keenly felt. The slowly unwinding, almost elegiac close to that track acts as a beatific coda to the near conflagration of it’s earlier bombast. It is the haunting strings that add most to this effect and they are emphasised to a greater effect here than on the studio version from the classic Come On Die Young.


The set features several tracks from the new album, and the likes of You’re Lionel Ritchie with it’s masses of reverb or the electronically distorted, yet riff-tastic Rano Pano stand up to anything in their extensive back catalogue. When it comes to an encore it is a pair of new ones that open and close the reprise (thankfully with Burns returning to the stage). A three song encore for most bands would be one of relative brevity, but Mogwai are oft-times a band that seek to stretch the musical moment and  the meat in the sandwich is the epic and fearsomely magnificent Mogwai Fear Satan. Either side of this sit the afore-mentioned newies.


The brilliantly titled George Square Thatcher Death Party highlights how  the band’s skill at weaving textured contrasts, mixing subtlety and the ferocity. The vocodered vocal provides the subtlety but is backed by the kind of noise-fest that the band specialise in. Sutherland returns to provide vocals for a particularly bombastic version of Mexican Grand Prix, the closest thing to a dance track that the band have ever produced. It is an example of how, fifteen years since they started making music together, Mogwai continue to evolve. One thing remains constant, though. A Mogwai gig is still one of the very best reasons that exists to risk a bout of tinnitus