Earth Division EP
Label: Sub Pop
Usually when Mogwai, one of the most prolific and consistent post-rock bands out there, are creating hushed, glacially paced melodies, they are doing so with the intention of blowing them up with a huge, fuzzed-out crescendo. They’ve always reveled in the loud-then-soft flow that’s defined post-rock, though on Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, an album released earlier this year, those blazing moments of catharsis were few and far between. That album seemed to show Mogwai moving in a different direction, playing more with subtle textures than overblown climaxes. It’s appropriate then that the Earth Division EP is a four-song set of some of the most melancholic and torpid tracks the band has ever put to record.
“Get To France” kicks off the EP in gloomy fashion, a dreary, descending piano riff evoking images of foggy hillsides and Gothic castles; violins and chimes fill out the spaces between the piano chords. It’s a sinister, brooding opener that could work well inside a concept album, its haunting melody perfectly suited for a dark period piece or a night of reading Edgar Allan Poe by candlelight. Within Earth Division though, the dark timbre of its opener never really goes anywhere.
The melancholy “Get To France” leads into the equally depressing “Hound of Winter,” but minus the eerie tone. A lone acoustic guitar is absently plucked while a harmonica and some electric guitar drones in the background are set astride a present but unmelodic vocal track; vocals have never been the strength of Mogwai. It’s a flat, stagnant track in desperate need of a jolt of energy. “Does This Always Happen?” doesn’t provide much in the way of liveliness either. Its looping guitar riff is a familiar one, sharing sonic similarities with Hardcore Will Never Die. At this point, we know Mogwai can do moody, atmospheric pieces, so tracks such as “Does This Always Happen?” and “Get To France” come across as complacent misfires that pale in comparison to their most innovative work.
“Drunk and Crazy” deserves some credit for delivering a jarring moment amongst the otherwise sleepy set of tracks. Its wall of guitar noise and vibrating electronics create an addictive and manic pulse, like a living, breathing sonic beast. For a time, the noise cuts out and leaves only piano and shimmering strings. The effect is staggering and shows off the band’s dynamic capabilities, if only because the rest of Earth Division’s moribundity allows for this moment of inspiration to really stand out. Still, it’s a fleeting spark in an otherwise dull effort. This is routine stuff for Mogwai, resulting in a competent, but unnecessary and forgettable addition to their discography.