Mogwai Earth Division EP(Sub Pop) Buy it from Insound
I guess the post-rock thing is sort of easy to exhaust. The music is mostly beautiful and well performed. The atmospherics are active and the sounds travel the expanse at a slow and ghostly rate. There’s enough brawn for “rock”(ers) and enough sensitivity to completely dispel the notion of machismo. It’s a formula that works well enough to yield results, but what comes after post-rock?
The answer is more post-rock: More expansive sounds, more sensitive riffs and more volume. As an example, this year’s Take Care, Take Care, Take Care from Explosions In The Sky appealed to me more than 2007’s All Of Sudden I Miss Everyone, but even I have to admit that it was more of the same. Speaking generally, I don’t know if there’s a refusal to branch out on the part of the bands of this ilk, or if the genre doesn’t offer a clause that eases the use of transitional or experimental elements, only the overuse of sounds that, after awhile, become cold and calculated. The expanse grows and the sounds become harder to reach. Even worse, progression almost seems nonexistent over the course of a post-rock band’s discography once the technique is established, which I consider a drawback. There has to be more to this than pretty and loud.
Merely months after earning some decent praise amongst the critical hierarchy with their latest LP, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, Mogwai releases Earth Division, a four-song EP of post-chamber-electro dirge that I personally wasn’t expecting: pretty and quiet. Apparently culled from the band’s Hardcore sessions, Mogwai’s four-song EP seems a reaction against the band’s genre, one introduced dramatically with Get To France, a veritable score of piano strokes and violin strings that dollop the glue upon the back of your hand so it may find permanent residence against your forehead. I don’t want to suggest clichéd and forced tragedy or melodrama, but the tone of Get To France has a story, one concluding in either a resolution or a shoulder to cry upon. It just feels bad, though it sounds beautiful.
While I won’t say it’s such a departure, (Hardcore’s Letters To The Metro could very well have been selected for the EP), Earth Division’s introduction of sophisticated drama undermines the band’s oft-airy and amplified output. And, they follow this with a folk song, (there’s even a harmonica), called Hound of Winter, nary a vocal effect to be heard while that ran so prevalent in Hardcore. Acoustic instrumentation, including some very distant string play, builds a singer/songwriter variation on the post-rock model, the airy and atmospheric bolstering of mostly analog elements.
Drunk And Crazy, though, pairs the band’s electro-rock buzz with these same elements, offering the violins and pianos an opportunity to speak their piece before the circuits are once again enacted, a fuzzy and barely audible pulse its only hint of percussion. Drunk And Crazy seems more resigned to weep in its brew, exasperated, somber and erratic, which leads into plain old sorrow with Does This Always Happen?.
Posed against Hardcore it’s even difficult to think of Earth Division as a companion piece, even if it is comprised of the LP’s runoff. The EP sounds like it was being written all along, Mogwai’s adherence to chamber-driven melancholy fairly consistent while the band subtly adds its own touches. Earth Division is more interesting than satisfying, but it’s difficult to dismiss its beauty and its reach past the band’s comfort level.4 August, 2011 - 15:58 — Sean Caldwell