Some bands are predominantly studio entities who take their music on the road out of promotional obligation; I’ve always felt that Mogwai is a live band who happens to make albums. And despite having never seen them live (they ended up canceling the Chicago show I had tickets for a few years ago), I’ve found their generous offerings of live tracks over the years to be a fine substitute. These selections really glorify Mogwai’s post-rock essence, allowing the band to be heard in their element as a cohesive, refined unit that flows, climaxes, and recedes together. These tracks showcase the band’s uncanny ability to instantly switch from glacial drones to gnarled, meteoric guitar lines that tower above the mix. Their agility is amazing to me, as is their ability to collectively commit to a dynamic or timbre within a split second. As a member of a noise-rock band myself, these are things I aspire to do with my own group, and Mogwai is one of the ensembles I always turn to for sonic advice.
Their earlier, more guitar-centric music is clearly on display here, with excellent and moving performances of “Yes! I Am A Long Way From Home” and “Cody.” Unfortunately, their unbelievable live LP, Special Moves, which has great performances of later tracks “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead” and “I Love You, I’m Going to Blow Up Your School,” isn’t available in its entirety on Spotify, but I highly recommend seeking it out elsewhere. Government Commissions (BBC Sessions 1996-2003), however, is well-represented in this playlist, and it contains some breathtaking moments, from the reverb washes of “Superheroes of BMX” to the slow-burn intensity of “Hunted By a Freak.” Many of the other tracks here are from EPs and reissues. Mogwai has really done their fans a service by releasing so much live material over the years; to submit yourself to it is to experience the true nature of their music.