"Burning/Special Moves"

(Rock Action Records 2010)Mogwai - Burning/Special Moves

You just knew that Mogwai was going to put together something special, or at the very least different, for their first ever live release. The simple meat and potatoes taped sets that seem to be the norm for most bands just doesn’t fit the expansive and immersive music of the Scottish instrumental post-rockers. And the boys don’t disappoint, as CD/DVD companions “Burning/Special Moves” are an audio and visual treat.

“Burning” is quite a stylistic departure from most live DVDs. Rather than edit some raw performance footage together, the band enlisted filmmakers Vincent Moon and Nathanaël Le Scouarnec to capture their three-night April 2009 performance at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. Shot in wonderful black and white, Moon and Le Scouarnec utilize soft focus and purposefully grainy stock where appropriate, and emphasize close-ups and wandering camera work to create a dream-like atmosphere that perfectly matches the music. The end effect looks more like a long-form music video than concert footage, which was presumably the band’s intent. The only real quibble is the length; the DVD is forty-five minutes and eight songs long, half of which are from 2008’s “The Hawk is Howling,” which doesn’t do the rest of Mogwai’s back catalogue justice.

Making up for the DVD’s relative brevity is the accompanying CD, “Special Moves.” With eleven tracks covering all of Mogwai’s six full-lengths, it’s much more representative of the breadth and development of the band’s music. It helps that the sound quality on the disc, as well as on the movie, is fantastic; every note and nuance is crystal clear, and the band plays the absolute hell out of the set. Clearly in a groove, Mogwai are able to jam, adding subtle touches to the original versions of the songs, without sacrificing anything in the way of a tight performance.

In an age where anyone can pull up their favorite live clips on YouTube in an instant, a band really has to put together something special to make a live package worth the fans’ time and cash. Mogwai’s first foray into the live recording realm does exactly that. With a clever approach to the film and a dynamite sound recording all around, “Burning/Special Moves” is not only mandatory fare for any Mogwai fan, but worth the attention of anyone with even a passing interest in well-played, well-recorded instrumental rock.


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