Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: Mogwai : "Zidane : A 21st Century Portrait" (Play It Again Sam)

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mogwai : "Zidane : A 21st Century Portrait" (Play It Again Sam)

This release really is a marriage made in heaven. Zinedine Zidane is probably the greatest footballer of our generation, while Mogwai are probably the greatest instrumental act of our generation. Both parties, in their respective fields, have served up some truly wonderful and inspiring performances over the course of the last decade.


Mogwai soundtrack the documentry here, shot by director Douglas Gordon, which closely follows the French genius over the course of a 90 minute game last February, for his team Real Madrid. The clip above shows just how Gordon captured the maestro at his glorious best and it is amply soundtracked by the Glasweign post-rockers. Zizou is revered worldwide as the master. Of course, we all know what happened at the last World Cup. It was supposed to be his swansong, Zidane was supposed to retire as a World Champion. For the most part, he was well on his way (remember that stunning performance in the Semi-Final against tournament favourites Brazil?). But, one moment of madness, in the Final, when Zidane headbutted his Italian opponent in the chest and was promptly sent-off, ruined everything. It was a sad end to the career of one of the best footballers of all time.

This documentry has helped us to remember just why Zidane was so great and Mogwai make sure they perform to their highest standard here in appreciation of the great one. The Scottish quintet were commissioned to provide the music to this experimental film, and odd choice you may think?. Not so, because the mighty 'Gwai, as passionate football fans themselves, have been admired for creating trademark cinematic soundscapes for well over a decade now. In fact, if you were to count all of their remix albums, collected ep's, studio releases and radio sessions, this is amazingly Mogwai's 10th release. "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait" could be, arguably, the apex of their career. It is certainly their most cohesive work yet, employing recurring themes and graceful instrumentaion to near devastating effect.

Gone are those fabulous build-up's and crescendos, for this release. Instead most tracks are tranquil piano led pieces that just melt into your heart. It's more "I Chose Horses" Mogwai than "Glasgow Mega-Snake" Mogwai. It kicks off with the calming influence of "Black Spider", effortlessly jinking its way through past "Terrific Speech 2", right through to "Wake Up and Go Berserk". "Wake Up..." is a psychedelic-tinged number that had me questioning if it really was recorded by Mogwai, while "Terrific Speech 2" contains some of the most calm and reflective percussion I have heard in 2006, making this track and instant highlight.

The music on this soundtrack conveys just about every emotion that goes through a footballers mind, trust me I have played the sport for long enough!. "Half-Time's" (which is the music in the clip above) glorious piano line is just so downright gorgeous, everything else seems to stand still. I can imagine Zidane, sitting in the dressing room at half-time during this match, immersed in his own thoughts, while everything around him frantically passes by. "Half-Time" captures this atmosphere perfectly. Mark my words when I say, this is one of the best compositions Mogwai have ever laid down. I could listen to it forever and never tire of it.

"I Do Have Weapons" shows further evidence that Mogwai are adept at writing beautiful instrumental songs and features those trademark glockenspiel sounds. The key to this song, like most others on this album, is restraint. Just when you think it may explode, crescendo-like, it quickly quitens down again. When I think back to those early indie-tinged singles way back in the mid-90's, I marvel at how Mogwai have progessed since then.

The beautiful piano-line from "Half-Time" reappears on "Time and a Half", aided by some percussion, though it doesn't quite have the same impact. It is still a heart-breakingly brilliant moment. And that is another reason why this album is such a success, inspired moments weave their way throughout this release, cropping up every now and then before quielty disappearing.

"Black Spider 2" ends "Zidane...", much like the way the album starts. Its as if, the other tracks (over 70 minutes worth of music) didn't matter. But in all reality, every second and every single instrument here matters a great deal because this is a breath-taking recording.

Some of the more pretentious post-rock fans may scoff at the idea of Mogwai providing film soundtracks. But, they can have no complaints here beacuse Mogwai are steeped in football tradition and are better placed than any other band to provide this epic, grandiose and ambitious tribute to THE greatest footballer of our generation. All that is left is for Mogwai to perform this live using the visuals from the film. Now that really would be a marriage made in heaven.

You can see why Zidane is revered as the greatest, by watching this

Rating = 92%

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