If you're unfamiliar with Mogwai, you might be fooled by the title Rave Tapes. This is not music for a molly-fueled dance party. This is more suited to eating shrooms and lying on the floor.
There's been a lot of talk about the nearly 20-year-old band going electronic, and they are trying some new sounds out. The buzzy, deep keys add a lot of texture and a vaguely Tron-ish feel, particularly on “Remurdered.” Not that this is Daft Punk or anything. “Hexon Bogon” has some grandiose guitar melodies as well as dramatic pummeling and crashing drumming. The band can't seem to entirely break out of its patterns, which is a good and bad thing. The spoken-word sample on “Replenish” isn't very interesting, but an ever-shifting slow-burner like “Master Card” is still satisfying.
Mogwai does a lot of soundtrack work, so it's difficult not to want to imagine a movie for Rave Tapes. Part of that is projection, but it's also just the nature of the band's songwriting. If this record has a setting, it's a sci-fi dystopia. In the storyline, “Deesh” is the low point, “Blues Hour” is a moment of reflection and “No Medicine For Regret” is a glimmer of hope.
More than any album before, Rave Tapes forces a look at Mogwai's past and future. How do they keep things fresh after so many years? Synths and keys are one way, and they managed to work them into the mold pretty easily. It's not exciting, but it's still music to get lost in.