Have you heard of the TV series, Les Revenants? Yeah, me neither. At least that was the case until I learned that Mogwai was doing the soundtrack. These post-whateveryoufancy mostly-instrumental Scots have been creating atmospheric tunes for nearly two decades, and such moody music is really the ideal companion for a zombie series.
Compared to the band’s back catalogue, Les Revenants is remarkably constrained. Gone are most of the wailing guitars and sudden bursts of clattering, frazzled chaos. This soundtrack excels at the ominous and the creepy, introducing a mood that’s slightly off before reassuring, then repeating. This is music that sneaks up on you and surrounds you with its intentions.
“The Huts,” for instance, has a slinky sense of motion that leads flawlessly into the powerful “Kill Jester.” Here strings moan on as though ushering in funerals to mourn the lost, while the piano surges forward even as a bit of synth to offset the balance. “This Messiah Needs Watching” lays on the fuzz, but keeps things subtle, while “Whisky Time” is a delicate reprieve of piano and muted guitar.
The breaks in the tension are some of Mogwai’s most beautiful work to date. “Special N” has a confidently, quietly assertive riff and uplifting strings that combine to create surging optimism. In a similar vein, “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” is a molasses-infused country twist on a Washington Phillips classic. Even through the darkness, beauty triumphs, and Mogwai’s take on Les Revenants stands on its own as a powerful, graceful record.