A fourth LP of avant-rock from Scots collective Mogwai is something divisive – to be loved or hated. It’s difficult to imagine these nine largely instrumental tracks leaving an impression of being “okay”.
It’s immediately clear that the word “happy” in the title would be better replaced by “blissful”, for the overwhelming vibe of this record is chilled. The songs exist largely as looped refrains which progress by collecting extra layers of instrumentation rather than by exploring interesting musical paths. Sticking together all manner of noises, from guitar and piano through vocals digested by a vocoder and regurgitated, owl-like, as though mouse droppings, the band serenely create the kind of music that’s best heard on a CD player late at night with the lights off.
The warm, ambient synth sounds are a lot to do with the calming atmospherics. Underpinning Moses? I Amn’t (sic) alongside reversed drums, such sounds make the eyes close and the mind wander. There’s more later, Golden Porsche carrying on the imaginary film score. They contrast well with Minted By A Freak, which sounds almost song-like by comparison and instrumentally recalls moments of Air‘s Moon Safari.
Elsewhere, Ratts Of The Capital begins as an understated yet intricate mix-up of quiet guitars before building up into a colossal highlight of the whole album. Listeners will need patience though, as it fades in and out over eight minutes.
There are big guitar and cymbal-laden moments too, Killing All The Flies especially cranking up the volume before easing off again into the noise experiment that is Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep.
Stop Coming To My House is a stirring piece and a memorable one, but much of what went before it suffers from the ignominy of being largely of a similar ilk – it’s difficult to remember one track from the other, so similar are their structures and instrumental arrangements.
Despite this, as an album of lush soundscapes, of mood-making refrains, it somehow works. And while it won’t change your life, Happy Songs For Happy People will change your head down a gear or two and leave you needing to say “aaaaaaahhhhh”.