Every Country's Sun

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Mogwai rang in their 22nd year of existence with Every Country's Sun, their first non-soundtrack album since 2014's Rave Tapes and their first without founding guitarist John Cummings. Despite the lineup change, there are no drastic differences to the band's approach, and they spend most of the album expressing the extremes of their minimalism and maximalism. They bookend the set with songs that are quintessentially Mogwai: the slow-burning opener, "Coolverine," begins with shimmering keyboards and warm bass before layers of guitar, synths, and brass take the track to the saturation point, while the deep drones and explosive guitars of "Every Country's Sun" close the album with a blaze of cathartic glory. In between, Mogwai offer cerebral pleasures like the aptly named "Brain Sweeties," a sonic sculpture that sets a circular guitar motif spinning above perpetually tumbling drums and gently arcing synths, and "aka 47," a strangely shifting mood piece for analog synth and pedal steel that reaffirms why the band's film scores are so compelling. Elsewhere, they provide more visceral satisfaction with "Party in the Dark"'s fizzy alt-rock and the seething guitar workout "Battered at a Scramble"; it's no coincidence that this track is reminiscent of Rock Action, an album that also featured Every Country's Sun producer Dave Fridmann. Just as Mogwai maintain the tension of most of these songs for as long as possible, they also save the album's biggest climaxes for last, as on the furious "Old Poisons." As effective as the band's loud-quiet juxtapositions can be, there are times when Every Country's Sun feels more like an exercise in pacing and dynamics than purposeful expression: "20 Size" is all climax, while the spacy ramble "Crossing the Road Material" lacks any peaks. Moments like these are reminders that there's a fine line between repeating and elaborating on a band's style, especially when that band has had as distinctive and lengthy a career as Mogwai's. Nevertheless, Every Country's Sun has enough great moments to please fans.

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