Increasingly becoming just as prolific in releasing documentary soundtracks as they are with regular studio albums, this time Mogwai have returned with their first movie soundtrack. Though the reviews have not been favourable for the Jonathan and Josh Baker film Kin, the soundtrack continues the rich vein of form from the Scottish band in what has been a stellar 12 months. With their biggest ever headline tour culminating in a huge show at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro Arena last December, they are showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
Opening with the foreboding simple piano motif of ‘Eli’s Theme’, a discordant edge hovers at the outer parameters adding tension to what would otherwise be a calming theme. The futuristic ‘Scrap’ follows, the combination of piano and synths gelling perfectly. As an emergency clarion wails low, almost subliminally so in the mix, it all adds to that perfect mix of quiet and loud post-rock that Mogwai have been perfecting since their Young Team days, wrapping Kin in a paranoid, unsettling fog from the off.
It can be hard for a soundtrack to capture emotions and paint such a vivid picture when taken out of context, but there are no fears of that here. ‘Flee’ is suitably skittering and twitchy, building to a thrilling crescendo, the kind of track that finds you picking up your pace if listening to it on the move, casting a suspicious eye over your shoulder looking for unseen assailants.
‘Funeral Pyre’ meanwhile is serene; a rare moment of tranquility that makes the sudden rushes of sound to come all the more jarring and urgent. Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite has stated that some of the work on Kin ranks highly amongst his personal favourites, and so it should with album highlight ‘Donuts’, an ethereal, glacial epic that contains more emotion and beauty than some artists manage in a lifetime.
Rather than falling into the ‘soundtrack album’ pitfall of merely presenting short cues and motifs as a collection of tracks, this is to all intents and purposes a fully formed album. Entirely instrumental (bar the last track), like much of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ soundtrack work, it manages to be both evocative in its story-telling as well as being clearly recognisable.
Any piece could be easily lifted and placed within a live set (something that bodes well for November’s Brighton Dome show), and will surely be but the first in a series of movie scores to come. Kin ranks close to the top of the very best of Mogwai’s lengthy catalogue, regardless of genre. Skip the movie, catch the soundtrack.