Mogwai: Les Revenants
Alternative & IndieRock...
Rock Action Records
What do you get when you take the noisy guitars out of Mogwai? Well, you get the Scottish five-piece band’s soundtrack made for French TV-series, Les Revenants, conveniently also called Les Revenants.
Post-rockers Mogwai doing a soundtrack is something to get excited about; they created a near masterpiece with the film score to the documentary, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, and delivered excellent work collaborating with Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet on the soundtrack to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain.
The Revenants is an eight-episode long zombie TV-drama that aired on French cable TV. It revolves around a small mountain village, not unlike David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, where the dead keep re-appearing.
The soundtrack comprises fourteen songs; tracks, ‘Wizard Motor’, ‘This Messiah Needs Watching’ and ‘The Huts’ also appeared on the Les Revenants EP that was released in December of last year, the latter two in slightly different versions.
Intro song, ‘Hungry Face’, features an innocent high-pitched synthesizer melody, driven by propelling drums against a back-drop of guitars quietly humming in the background. It sets the mood for the rest of the album; one that is dominated by piano and synthesizers, instead of the dense walls of guitars that usually prevail on Mogwai’s albums.
The overall feel of Les Revenants can best be described as restrained. There is an underlying tension that snakes through all fourteen songs, yet the pent up energy never comes to a full explosion. It complements the mystery tone of the mini-series and makes for an eerie sense of the unexpected when experiencing the music on its own.
Slight musical themes are recurrent throughout the album, but most noticeable on ‘Kill Jester’, ‘Relative Hysteria’ and ‘Portugal’. The biggest surprise on Les Revenants, however, is ‘What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?’; a cover of a Washington Philipp’s gospel song. Going against what is almost a rule of thumb in post-rock music, it uncharacteristically features clear and intelligible vocals by guitarist, Stuart Braithwaite. Unfortunately, said vocals just don’t work; they sound shaky and insecure. This might have gone well with the overall feel of the TV-show, but when listening to the song on its own it, it comes across as poor production, rather than intentional styling; Braithwaite’s not quite blessed with a singing voice. That’s probably why vocals in Mogwai songs, when there are any at all, are virtually always drowned in sound effects, usually so much so that the lyrics are barely comprehensible.
Still, props to them for trying something new. Not all new musical directions turn out to be improvements, but fortunately this is the only faux-pas on an otherwise masterfully crafted soundtrack, making this a record that is well worth your time.