This collection of Mogwai’s early singles covers 1996-1997, but it flows well as an album. It lays down the template for Mogwai’s work, slow-building instrumentals with occasional vocals and bursts of noise.
As a starting point for Mogwai it’s not bad as the tracks throughout are fairly digestible in length, indeed the running total of all 9 adds up to just over half an hour. Opening track is as typically Mogwai as any of their work with a bass-heavy, lumbering rhythm and a nice build up to some heavy distortion near the end of the track, before returning to serenity at the close. It’s atmospheric and thrilling all at once. Helicon 2 is a little darker, again bass-led with subtle electric guitar touches here and there and minimal percussion.
There’s no massive variation across these 9 tracks. Angels vs Aliens contains some endearingly weedy vocals (as does Tuner) along with some thrilling white noise. It, and most of the tracks here are perfect exercises in how to pace an instrumental track and maintain interest.
Ithica 27.9 contains a superb bass guitar led melody (you’ll almost find yourself playing air bass guitar), alightly reminiscent of the Cure circa Faith until they drench it in noisy guitars 2 minutes in. Though as soon as the noise enters, it’s gone again, all in under 3 minutes! Penultimate track Helicon 1 is the longest thing here at 6 minutes and is an epic track, unfolding gradually until the crescendo halfway though, which is almost stadium post-rock! Live versions of this wouild expand the track to ever increasing lengths.
Although all these tracks were not recorded at the same time, it’s a cohesive collection of songs which flows and hence works as an album. Definitely worth getting, whether you’re already a fan of Mogwai or seeking to investigate.