KIN ost by MogwaiRelease date: August 31, 2018
Label: Rock Action
It’s has been on the cards since pretty much day one that Mogwai would one day end up writing movie soundtracks. Obliquely foreshadowed in a pre credits sequence, if you will. Their name is a film reference, they called an early tune ‘Stanley Kubrick’ and they make patient, emotive, instrumental music. The only surprise here then is that KIN is their first actual Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. They’ve previously done art films, documentaries, French zombie telly and some collaborations but this is the first time they’ve scored a movie. KIN is apparently a sci-fi crime thriller, James Franco plays the bad guy and the wonderful Carrie Coon is in it. It looks like nonsense to be honest but possibly the enormously good fun type of nonsense, we’ll have to wait and see.
Opener ‘Eli’s Theme’ introduces the film’s central character and the album’s prevailing chilly mood. It’s atmospheric, steadily paced and centred on a slowly unfolding piano line. Much of the record is obviously written to particular scenes and handed prosaically descriptive titles to that end. ‘Flee’ seems a dead cert for a chase scene, a percussive synth and an anxious circling four note piano build the tension toward a discordant break. It alters and builds again towards a triumphant escape. Likewise ‘Funeral Pyre’ is a sombre thing of mournful drones and sighs, hope coming through as shimmering guitar in high end washes. Both are lovely and affecting despite their still visible functional bones. The pattern is broken by ‘Donuts’ one of the tracks trailing the record and possibly its best moment, which despite its unpromising title arrives on a slow rising tide of synth and spirals gorgeously upward in epic Mogwai style.
There’s more downbeat, claustrophobic, piano led disquiet before the title track returns to a more widescreen sound. ‘KIN’ builds dramatically for about six minutes before the impending storm eventually breaks and percussive, cinematic, bombast rains down all the way to the horizon. The final, credits roll, number ‘We’re Not Done’ is Mogwai in the alt-pop Cure/New Order worship mode recently seen on ‘Party in The Dark’. Its buoyant, celebratory vibe is at odds with all that has gone before but feels like a fine way to close things out. Undeniably infectious and enjoyable as they are, I’m still left a little confused by these not quite there, after image, pop songs they do.
Through the last few years there’s been a delicate sifting out of what Mogwai do as a band and what they do on soundtracks. How much this is conscious and deliberate or simply the result of working to different goals isn’t clear but in brief, it appears the well radge noise torrents are saved for their own efforts, the soundtracks appropriately leaving a lot more space for the images to do their work. In parallel with this the idea that Mogwai will one day make a really bad record seems to have faded away. They’re only human, surely that day must eventually come? It only makes sense, but we’re not there yet. ‘We’re Not Done’ indeed. Previous qualms about their records seem with hindsight only a matter of taste, the quality remains consistently, amazingly, high. I’d say KIN was most similar to their soundtrack for Les Revenants and that personally I like Atomic better for whatever reason but it’s a fine addition to the discography. Let’s hope the film does it justice.