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:: Mogwai :: Kid 606 ::
24 September 2006 / Academy 1 / Manchester
By James Hinchcliffe

Long-time John Peel favourite Kid 606 has been plying his trade over the course of several genre-shattering, occasionally unlistenable avant dance LPs now. Witnessing him perform his trademark none-more-pummelling collage of furious on-a-knife-edge beats and speaker punishing loops is however, quite an experience and certainly not one for the musically puritanical or faint-eared. It's a choppy, densely layered mix that should by rights sound a complete mess but there's a real skill at work underneath that jagged wall of noise and just enough space between the component parts to allow room for some dexterous turntablism (laptop-ism, anyone?), to steer the whole shebang clear of haphazard, impenetrable noise. Behind his equipment he's going nuts. Or rather, he isn't, save the odd head-nodding sequence - more accurately he's going mad through his medium, and it's a captivating madness. He even conjures up some warm atmospherics for his last segue - no one-trick pony, either.

Mogwai have always been an interesting proposition, even when, as over the course of their first 3 LPs, they often flattered to deceive (file under: great in patches). But the hit-and-miss quiet bit/loud bit dynamics of overrated debut LP "Young Team" and the only occasionally effective Slint-pilfering circa: "Come On Die Young" seem quite some time ago now. Indeed, new LP "Mr Beast" marks a career highpoint - certainly in terms of consistency - and it's these songs, replete with freshly added warmth and soft touch, that form the backbone of this tour. In terms of live reproduction, everything is in perfect proportion; it's great to hear them sound this good - as though they've taken note of the redemptive power of post-rock as showcased by younger upstart pupils like Sigur Ros and Explosions In The Sky and realised the limitations of gloomy, impressive-only-at-first coruscating sheets of sound.

Of the new material "Acid Food" illustrates this better than most: beautifully restrained, softly overwhelming, never noisy. Sadly the brilliantly effective (and highly unlikely) pedal steel on the closing bars isn't reproduced tonight but no matter - it's an incredibly delicate and moving (and - yes - innovative) piece of music. The monumental eery beauty of "Hunted By A Freak" is as always very welcome and makes even the terrific new stuff pale in comparison. It's a show-stopper and even prompts two girls near me to try a twirl or two - audacious! It's as though their audience has lightened up with them. And to think it was roughly 5 years ago (upon the release of "Rock Action") that I declared they'd never again get near "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong". Well, they choose this as the last track of the main set and - whilst still gob-smackingly great - it's noteable that at least half of what came before eclipsed it by a margin.

In the post-rock fallout and clamour to create more interesting and expansive clashes of conventional sound (Battles seem to have raised the bar a bit) Mogwai, with their frustrating glimpses of greatness, occasional lapse into generic post-rockism and somewhat shaky quality control, seemed more capable of being left behind than most. Perhaps that's harsh - Godspeed You! Black Emperor never made a consistently great record either and maybe the old Beavis & Butthead maxim about Radiohead's "Creep" (you need the bits that suck to make the bits that don't suck rule even more, roughly) applies more to this genre of music than most. And maybe, despite my better judgement and knowledge of the genre, I still approach it with a naive conventional rock n' roll head. Or maybe I'm spot on. Whatever, they've peaked at just the right time and tonight they are a good deal more than sporadically great. I can't imagine they've sounded as good as this on previous tours and all credit to them for coming back this strong, British rock music is all the better for a Mogwai this lean and sharp.


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