Regular readers will know Mogwai are my all-time favourite band, and their bi-annual release of a new album is always an event on Planet Rawling. Every Country’s Sun is the first non-soundtrack studio album since the departure of long-time member John Cummings, and coming on the back of Atomic, one of their best albums for year’s, I was approaching this with a mixture of high expectation tempered by a certain amount of trepidation. How could I have ever doubted them? This album takes the electronic textures of Atomic and fuses them with their ‘signature sound’, as they reach back through their back-catalogue all the way back to 1996’s Young Team for cues on how to evolve their aesthetic, and it’s a triumph. Putting my music journalist head on for a moment, I noted the following echoes that may or may not have influenced the songwriting: Brian Eno’s Music For Films, Unwound’s Leaves Turn Inside You, Rodan’s Rusty, Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, The Grifters’ Crappin’ You Negative, Slint’s Spiderland, to name just a few. 80’s & 90’s electronica meets the cutting edge of 90’s American indie. It’s definitely Mogwai, but here they’re really taking chances and pushing just how far you can go with a largely-instrumental sound based around drums, guitars and keyboards. If I had to pick a favourite track it would be ‘Don’t Believe The Fife’, which reminds me of the classic ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ in it’s slow burn Romanticism (with a capital ‘R’), but really the album as a whole is something that has to be considered as a single body of work, with a carefully-considered track listing that is intended to shift the listener through a variety of moods. Every Country’s Sun is a consolidation of a wide range of influences from the past few decades, shot through the prism of a band at the peak of their potential, to create a music that’s very much for the world we live in today. Highly recommended.
Order your copy here
See also: my Project Mogwai paintings
A new painting from George – ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ – which will form part of the new exhibition The Lost Of England, opening at Marauni Mercier gallery in Brussels on the 7th September. After the woodland escapades of My Back To Nature, it’s good to see him back on the streets with his eye as keen as ever for just the right kind of image to paint.
Everything begins elsewhere, he knows that: dawn, Christmas, love, beauty, terror, the wind, the sky, the horizon, his own soul. It begins far in the woods, or out on some windy field by the sea. He wants to be there, not here; he wants to be where things begin, and he is so close, so near. Only – for reasons he cannot explain – something stands in his way, something he didn’t ask for. Reason, terror, unworthiness, he can’t even name it, it takes different guises every time, but it is always there, standing in his way, keeping him from his destiny.
John Burnside, A Life About My Father
This quote from John Burnside is one of my favourite passages in the English language, the atmosphere of which I tried to capture in my 2014 painting ‘Christmas On Earth’ (above).
My favourite living painter – George Shaw – has a new exhibition – The Lost Of England – opening next month, but already there’s another one lined up for 2018. A Corner Of A Foreign Field will be a retrospective, his first since 2011’s The Sly And Unseen Day, to be held at the Yale Center For British Art in the USA. Featuring work for the past 20+ years, the emphasis will be on scenes from the Tile Hill estate he grew up on and will include some of my personal favourites. There’s no way I’ll be able to get there in person, so the best I can hope for is a lavish exhibition catalogue to add to my collection.
He wasn’t disappointed in life. That was what people liked to believe, that it was life that disappointed men like him, life, the world, being alive, when, in fact, the opposite was true: Tommy loved the world, he loved trees and water and stones and sky, he loved the earth, he loved swimming in the river on a hot summer’s day, or walking in the snowy woods in the middle of winter. He wasn’t even disappointed in people, or not really. What disappointed him was the world people made, the institutions, the rules, the conventions by which they lived, whereby one man’s life was richer and easier than another’s for no good reason and – worse – these rules by which the poor, the weak, the deceived, the disadvantaged perpetuated their own condition, looking for a boss, believing what they were told, obeying the joyless laws that were made for no other reason than to hold down and contain every spark of life in their hearts and minds and bodies, every last glimmer of energy, or imagination, or everyday joy.
John Burnside, Living Nowhere
Photograph taken in Morley, Leeds, 2015.