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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
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Mr. Beast

There are two sounds that really define Mogwai. One is a wall of guitar so dense and loud and turbulent that it blows your hair back, even coming out of the tinniest of speakers. This is the Mogwai that melts eardrums and inhibitions in a live setting, the fists-in-the-air rock-action Mogwai. The other essential Mogwai sound is quieter, a series of plaintive piano notes, each picked with care and allowed to reverberate for a dreamy, meditative interval.

On Mr. Beast, Mogwai's fifth album, the band provides space for both kinds of experiences, the loud and the soft, the aggressive and the pensively reticent. What's interesting is how the two poles reinforce each other here, the blistering surge of "Glasgow Mega-Snake" clearing the air for "Acid Food"'s down-tempo drum beat and pedal-steel guitar flourishes, the glassy calm of "I Choose Horses" leading to the majestic swagger of "We're No Here." They're not so much opposites as alternate sides of the same coin, segueing with surprising smoothness so that it's easy to forget exactly where you are in the album or what comes next.

The album begins in near silence, a few faint guitar tones wrapped around piano notes as "Auto Rock" opens. Barry Burns' piano is first a whisper, then a conversation, then a crashing oration, all against a pulsing backdrop of guitar and drums. "Auto Rock" is one long crescendo, building and building, as it sets the stage for "Glasgow Mega-Snake." This is the album's first full-on guitar onslaught, an Armageddon of tones wrapped in an off-kilter time signature, dying back to nothing, then flaring up again in squalling, scale-mounting explosions of feedback. The transition to "Acid Food" is somewhat abrupt, the glorious noise cutting away to unadorned guitar chords and drum-machine metronomics. Yet once you're past the boundary, the cut becomes an island of tranquility, its twanging lap steel — that's Dave McGowan from Teenage Fan Club — spinning lazy arcs of countrified melody. "Travel Is Dangerous" bridges both extremes, starting in ominous quietude and erupting into oceanic waves of distortion. There's an epic twitch to gorgeous "Team Handed," its drum line unfurling in ritual-paced glory, cymbal crashes spaced at intervals among long, tranquil piano meditations.

Mogwai save their two strongest cuts for last. "I Choose Horses" is luminously beautiful, all shifting, rainbow-colored auras floating around a muttered, half-heard series of spoken words. The words are indecipherable — they're in Japanese and spoken by Tetsuya Fugakawa from Envy — yet they become the wavering center of this wonderful piece. Despite the fact that they don't convey any specific meaning, or perhaps because of it, the words feel laden with mystery, melancholy and meaning. They give shape to the mournful piano line, the swirling textures of guitar, and make this cut feel like a visit to a parallel universe. The disc ends with "We're No Here," a dense and distorted march toward glory, its slow, aching melody anchored by bass and repeated, an octave or two up, by guitar. The pace is measured, weighted with heavy sound, and punctuated by echoing drum shots. It is larger, more vibrant, louder than life — and filled with triumphant metallic grandeur. It is hard to say which side of Mogwai is more moving, the quietly beautiful or the transcendently loud, but the great thing about Mr. Beast is that you don't have to decide.

by Jennifer Kelly

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