Mogwai’s last album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, found the veteran post-rock instrumentalists reigning in some of their more grandiose late-career tendencies. They’d become less likely to try to blow the lid off with squalls of guitar noise, as they’d done since 2006’s Mr. Beast, inclined instead toward more spacious keyboard-oriented arrangements that, while not neglecting heavy guitar, left room for the development of a wider variety of textures. With their new remix album, A Wrenched Virile Lore, the band gives listeners the chance to reconsider Hardcore Will Never Die, featuring reimaginings of songs from that album by Mogwai’s peers in the experimental music scene.
Justin K. Broadrick turns the muscular rock track “George Square Thatcher Death Party” into a thundering and expansive shoegaze opus in the vein of his own work as Jesu. Slowly unfolding layers of gauzy melody and booming percussion, the result is perfectly hypnotic. RM Hubbert’s reworking of Mogwai’s ode to Krautrock, “Mexican Grande Prix,” keeps the whispered vocal and basic melodic structure of the original, but it replaces the drum loops and Kraftwerk-style synths with a Spanish classical guitar, which stands out starkly as the only instrumental element. As a result, notes of passion and discord are uncovered in the song’s lyrics where the original came across as an only slightly teasing homage to Krautrock’s obsession with the glamour of the highway.
Among the less remarkable tracks on the album, techno maestro Umberto’s remix of “Too Raging to Cheers” keeps deleteriously close to the source material. The original was a slow-building progression of guitar, drums, and keyboards that felt like a by-the-numbers explication of Mogwai’s style, while the remix is a slow-building progression of loops, samples, and synths that sounds like what a by-the-numbers explication of the band’s style would be if they were an ambient-techno act. On Klad Hest’s version of “Rano Pano,” the layers of fuzzed-out guitars are replaced with break beats and melodic pulses reminiscent of 8-bit video-game music. The result is interesting as an exercise in interpretation, but the sonic elements of the seven-and-a-half-minute track begin to feel ill-suited to the melody, and by the end fascination gives way to annoyance.
A Wretched Virile Lore is subject to the discontinuity inherent in all albums of this sort, as there’s no unifying theme, mood, or tone. For better or worse, though, the album illuminates qualities in Hardcore Will Never Die that would have been easy to either miss completely or conveniently ignore, making it a worthwhile supplement to an already exceptional album.