Bands that occupy their own universe are either adored or ignored.
In modern times the most obvious example is Radiohead; say a bad word against them in the wrong company and their devotees will have your head on a spike. Alternatively, sing their praises to one who hasn’t delved into their oeuvre and you will most likely be met with an air of indifference. You know the ones; they’ve heard of them but have zero interest.
In Scotland, Mogwai garner similar responses. Held close to their hearts by the faithful, the Glaswegians have gone against the grain. After well-received debut Mogwai Young Team followed Come On Die Young which, in some quarters, failed to meet rabid expectations. Ever since then, offerings have always operated in the shadows, which you sense is where they feel most comfortable anyway. Largely devoid of lyrics, it can often seem inaccessible to untrained ears.
So when the then-quintet (guitarist John Cummings departing in 2015) ventured into the realms of soundtracks, it was a comfortable fit. Slightly incongruously, their first foray was for a documentary about French football legend Zinedine Zidane before contributing to Darren Aronofsky’s surreal The Fountain, which seemed much more in line with their sensibilities.
And so to their first full film soundtrack; KIN, a science fiction (would it be anything else?) action film. Based on the soundtrack, it’s likely to be a very tense film. The standout track is also the last; We’re Not Done (End Title) features Stuart Braithwaite in one of his rare ventures to the mic-stand. It’s upbeat and almost poptastic with lyrics about fighting one’s past and holding back fear, unusually optimistic for anything under the Mogwai name. It’s also, by pure coincidence, the best thing they have done for a while.
That’s not to say the preceding eight tracks are lesser, but they are much more traditionally atmospheric. The score is hung around a piano-centric frame, the watchword in the studio must have been ‘brooding’ as the ivories provide a sense of unease which hangs over the entire score. Funeral Pyre is fittingly named, a piece of maudlin, strung-out beauty. Flee is all scattering soundscapes and cacophonous drums, and Guns Down has a swirling build-up with pay-off to match.
Taken as one piece of work, the film itself has a tall order to match the quality on offer here.