Instrumental music is a strange beast. If you think of all the songs and all the albums that mean something to you, chances are it was the lyrics that provided those hooks – the singer’s voice and the words combining in a way to make an album created by a group of strangers, uniquely personal and specific to you.
It’s rare that an album which so sparsely utilises lyrics could have this effect but sometimes, just sometimes, truly great instrumental music has a way of slipping under your skin and getting right in about your bones.
And so that brings us to “Hardcore…” the seventh studio album from Glasgow alt-rockers Mogwai and the follow-up to 2008’s “The Hawk is Howling”.
This is an album which is all about build and release, build and release. The best tracks on it spiral around the listener gripping him or her in a way that will leave them feeling like they had been bound up tightly, barely able to breathe for how crushing the sound is, before the ropes unravel and leave in their place a sense of peace.
Third track “Rano Pano” is a perfect example of this as every few bars additional instrumentation adds a new layer to the melody and raises the volume before slowly stripping back and releasing the listener from a cage of crunchy guitars, pounding drums and distorted melodies.
This is an album of highlights, each song standing just as confidently on it’s own as it does as part of the whole. “How To Be A Werewolf” is another song built around this rising model but there is a much looser feel to it, as the guitarists seem to have been given free reign to enjoy themselves – the end result: a feel-good track which is almost summery, without being lightweight.
Closing track “You’re Lionel Richie” is the perfect way to end, combining the mellow elements of earlier tunes “Letters To The Metro” with the heavier onslaught of “San Pedro” by way of most of the other tracks on the album.
Sitting at a hefty 8 and a half minutes long, the opening of the track promises something MASSIVE. But rather than delivering straight away the music remains thoughtful, ponderous even, with just a hint of the wave of noise that is about to creep up on you, before crashing into shore around the halfway mark, the song finally becoming as heavy as promised.
A fantastic conclusion to a fantastic album.
(Released on 14th February 2011)
Kenneth John Porteous