The last time Mogwai recorded a soundtrack album was in 2006, when a film about French footballer Zinedine Zidane was given a touch of the band’s signature creeping murk.
While the album was a typical triumph, the film itself was perhaps a more incongruous source of inspiration for the band than usual – which isn’t to say it didn’t work.
But to have them now soundtrack a French drama series about a zombie-infested town seems a little more expected, suited and basically in tune with how you might imagine a new Mogwai record to sound.
First, let’s skip to the end, and a revelation: it’s always a delightful surprise to hear vocals on a Mogwai album. And to unveil an existential country song called What Are They Doing in Heaven Today? after a gruelling series of instrumentals means the surprise is all the more marked.
It’s difficult to imagine where it’ll fit into a telly programme about zombies, but the innocence of its sentiment is one of the more disarming things to appear on a Mogwai record in years.
Back to the big picture. One of the recurring interpretations of instrumental rock music is that it’s imagined to score visuals by its listeners. But while that may be easy to understand for some of Mogwai’s peers, there’s always been something rather more difficult to handle about their music.
Perhaps it’s that tendency to flit from instrumental aggression and tempestuousness to something quite accessible – it’s too jarring to be an impressionistic soundtrack – but with Les Revenants, apocalyptic post-zombie-attack visuals in the head seem completely reasonable.
It mightn’t be too much to suggest that this is perhaps how Mogwai should be listened to.
Calmer moments like the soaring Special N and the similarly snow-capped Relative Hysteria hark back to a calmness not shown since their severely under-rated Rock Action album. They only really turn back to their familiar chug on the closing Wizard Motor.
So Les Revenants has, by virtue of finding perfect inspiration, become one of the more satisfyingly coherent and rangy of Mogwai’s records. If a zombie invasion was the catalyst for this gorgeous work, let’s hope the apocalypse comes swiftly.