When Mogwai's Come On Die Young came out around the beginning of this year, it marked a big change for the group in terms of sound and style. For the most part, their loud-soft explosions were gone, and instead they seemed to have focused on subtlety and slow progressions even more. While I did enjoy the album quite a bit, I couldn't help but feel like the transition for the group had completely been smooth. Many of the songs on the disc just didn't seem to grab me at all and I kind of hoped that they would head back toward their older style on their next release. Imagine my surprise when the group announced the release of an all new 4 song EP within the same year. I wondered where the group would head and what it all would sound like.
Instead of heading back to their older sound, though, they've continued down the path of solitude a little more, but this time I must say that I'm happier with the results. While the new EP is perhaps their quietest offering to date (even more so than their 3/4 subdued 4 Satin EP), it also finds the group falling into place more with the new sound and proving that they can write several tracks of interesting music, without one bit of feedback (OK, so actually there are a couple loud spots) or vocals (almost). Being the good lads that they are, they even included 2 tracks off their import only No Education/Fuck The Future EP for a total of 6 songs and over 30 minutes of music.
The disc opens up with the slow, organ-laden tribute track entitled "Stanley Kubrick." While a fairly simple bass, guitar and drum trio form the backbone of the song, in the end it's the organ that holds everything together and makes it work. The liner notes mention Lee Cohen as having provided vocals for the track, but the only thing that could even possibly come across as vocals is so strangely distorted and arrives so late in the song that one can't discern individual words. The group has proven they can write nice little piano numbers before (as in "Radar Maker" on Young Team) but instead of feeling like a bit of noodling, this time things feel much more like a composition. Building ever so slightly as it runs its course, the track also uses a set of chimes to very nice effect.
The longest track on the release, "Burn Girl Prom-Queen," is simple in structure and progression, but somehow works with the very layered (but subtle arrangements of) different instruments. Perhaps the best part of the track is the horns of the "Cowdenbeath Brass Band" that provide a somber backing to the track, almost equivilent to a funeral march. The final new track (if you'd previously heard the UK only EP above) is entitled "Rage: Man" and moves along with the pace of a slow waltz. During the first part of the track, a piano and guitar play off one another over quiet drums, but eventually things build up and the guitars burst into one of only two such outbreaks on the disc. Even when the levee breaks, though, things don't reach the fevered intensity of a song like "Like Herod" and it fits much better within this particular release. The final two tracks (although from different sessions) fit in nicely with the 4 new songs and provide even more music for the domestic buyer. Overall, it's a great half hour of music and it finds the group coming into their progressing sound much more than their last release. There aren't any real "Rawk" moments, but I'll take solid tracks over arm-pumping noise any day.