This is real……..
Pete Seeger, once said:
“any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.”
I read this quote recently on Scrawls and Bawls and it really stuck in my head. I think it’s so true. To make something so simple and yet so beautiful is a skill that many try but not many truly achieve.
FIRES Were Shot are a duo from Austin, Texas. They create sublime soundscapes using little more than a couple of guitars and their effects pedals. In many ways, it is ambient music in its simplest form. However, to take something so simple yet make it so dense and moving is something not many artists can achieve. And it’s weird because more than any other record that I’ve listened to this year I am sucked in deeper and deeper by this record.
There really is a hypnotic quality to the music that makes me feel like I’m sitting or walking in a dream like state as the music pours through me. As ‘Cradles’ kicks in, I certainly don’t feel like I’m in an Edinburgh office, surrounded by work colleagues. I don’t notice the phone ring. I don’t notice a colleague ask me about my Christmas. I don’t even notice the time disappear. How did we get to 2pm? ‘We All Become Regretful’ has a similar impact. I could be floating above the room for all I know, looking in on myself. The fever I’ve had for the past couple of days playing tricks on me, rather than the music forcing these thoughts from my brain? I don’t think so.
But this is what makes FIRES Were Shot so brilliant. It does sound simple. It really does. However, it’s how they interweave the noise, tones and moments in each track that takes the listener to these other worlds. Worlds that normally only exist in dreams. I like how FIRES Were Shot sound like my dreams. I really do. ‘Go On And Carried Out’, with it’s lovely acoustic tones carry me to a land where nothing seems to matter. Children’s voices in the background reminding me of a time long ago. Of clouds made from marshmallow and rivers of salad cream. Ok, I’ll come back to reality now.
The fact is that this album really does create some magical worlds in my head. It’s stunning to think it’s simply 2 guitarists. The whole thing is built around some very simple melodies and modest chord progressions. And therein lies the genius of this record. To have such an emotive impact using so little. By simply distorting the truth. Not many records turn my brain into a world of madness whilst simultaneously relaxing my body. This album and this band and I are going to become very good friends. I can tell.
You can check out FIRES Were Shot here. If you, like I, enjoy dreaming then make sure you do. Enjoy.
‘Friend of the Night’ by Mogwai is, and always will be, one of my all time favourite pieces of music. When the chorus kicks in; big, noisey, fuzzy guitars, bass and drums are complimented perfectly by the most beautiful piano line. It is, for me, almost the perfect moment in music. It never fails to move me.
Live Mogwai are simply stunning. Over the years I have seen them in a tiny little venue in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, at the Barrowlands, at the Corn Exchange, at Cabaret Voltaire, at the Usher Hall and in a tent at T in the Park. On every single occasion I have been blown away by their brilliance.
My obsession with their music was born in 1999 when I was introduced to ‘Come On Die Young’ by a friend whilst we were living in the Netherlands. What I heard on that record was so fresh and interesting to me. Instrumental music? Noise music? I’d never heard anything like it. Somehow, as the years have gone on, they have managed to retain their relevance in a musical field that has expanded in size and quality. Nowadays, loads of bands do what Mogwai do. Simply put, nobody comes close to doing it as well as them. They still stand head and shoulders above all others in my opinion.
Now, as a rule, I tend not to love live albums. I don’t know why. I guess I just like a record to be a record and if I want to see the band live I will go and see them live. However, this is different. This is brilliant for so many reasons. A lot of credit for this has to go to Jon Cummings of the band who mixed the record. The attention to detail is incredible; every instrument is allowed to breathe and exist and have its place. It would be easy for a guitar line or a piano line to be lost in the noise. For one instrument to drown out another. But that never seems to happens with this record. It weirdly makes me think of doing music at school. In many ways it could be the perfect lesson for young kids. Remember when you were at school doing music and your teacher used to ask you to identify the instruments being played on any given piece of music? Now, that’s not actually that easy to do. Not unless the production is such that each instrument has its place. You can do that with this record, such is the production quality. Each instrument is placed perfectly in the mix. Major tip of the hat to Jon Cummings on that one.
Secondly, what I love about this record is the cross section of Mogwai’s work that is displayed here. It’s almost a scattering of their career to date. Tracks from Young Team, Come On Die Young, Rock Action, Happy Songs, Mr Beast and The Hawk Is Howling, put together so perfectly to recreate the live experience.
Turn this record up loud. Do it. Because though it will never come close to matching the real life experience of seeing one of the worlds best live acts, it does have an amazing ability to cover your body in goose bumps when listened to at full blast. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never seen them live, but when Mogwai play it feels like their music flows through you. It feels like an energy burning in your blood. It’s SO loud at times but never painfully so. Whenever I’ve seen them live, I have never felt anything but complete and utter joy.
I guess maybe for me, having loved this band for nearly 12 years and having seen them live so many times, this record has a massive emotional connection for me. Perhaps that is something that makes me love it even more. However, I would challenge anyone who turned this on, turned this up and wasn’t moved by tracks like ‘Friend Of The Night’, ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’, ‘2 Rights Make 1 Wrong’, ‘Like Herod’ and ‘Glasgow Megasnake.’ I could probably name every track on the record to be honest, such is the quality.
I took a while to getting around to buying this album but the wait has been completely worth it. It’s fuelled my excitement about the release of their new studio album ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’, to be released on 14th February 2011. I cannot wait. Mogwai never fail to impress me. It’s probably the record I’m most looking forward to next year.
If you don’t know Mogwai’s music. What’s wrong with you!? Check them out here. Enjoy.