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Mogwai turned up at Primavera, played their new album from start to finish and then went home

'Every Country's Sun' isn't out until September, but they gave fans a surprise preview

The trademark of this year’s Primavera seems to be special treats. Following Arcade Fire’s pop-up gig on Thursday evening at which they launched their new album, Mogwai followed suit last night (Friday 2 June), premiering their forthcoming ‘Every Country’s Son’ in its entirety in a tiny beachside clearing, the gig announced by a lone tweet a couple of hours before they come on.

This is the first studio album Mogwai have made since the departure of founding member John Cummings last year, and also the first they’ve made with producer Dave Fridmann since 2001’s ‘Rock Action’. Both personnel changes resonate in the new songs: much of the synth-driven, motorik feel of ‘Rave Tapes’ and ‘Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will’ has been replaced by the more traditional Mogwai guitarscapes, all soaring squall over baseline melodies, and Stuart Braithwaite’s vocals return on a couple of tracks too.

A middle section indebted to Eno ambience and feedback drones precedes Mogwai’s most cacophonous song since 2009’s ‘Batcat’, and the band finish the gig creating ever-denser white noise through their pedal boards while Braithwaite, in an impressive feat of, well, rock action, tears all six strings from his guitar one by one.

It’s a raucous finale to an album of songs that feel more optimistic than recent Mogwai outings, and the bonhomie is felt on both sides of the barrier: when a heckler compliments Braithwaite on his t-shirt that bears a reworked version of the classic Public Enemy logo with Theresa May in the cross-hairs, he receives a hearty smile and a collective cheers from the entire band, and despite playing a set of entirely unreleased music, the mood is one of revelation and appreciation. Before the last track, Braithwaite thanks both the festival for inviting them, and the crowd for sitting through an hour of new material; it receives the biggest cheer of the show.

It’s a decent marker of the kind of festival that Primavera has become that a band the size of Mogwai can be kept aside for a surprise show on a tiny stage, rather than trailed way in advance in big type on the promo poster. No longer is it a festival of bands simply piled high one after the other playing the hits targeted at the largest audience, but instead something more playful, with hidden power-ups dotted around the weekend’s landscape. If that paves the way for more gigs as exciting as this one, so much the better.

More reviews from Primavera Sound 2017.

Photos: Festival/Sergio Albert

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