Mogwai | Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) // From the beginning of their career Mogwai has always been about atmosphere, and developing a sense of beautiful brooding. Not an evil brooding, but one where songs will lay in wait, then explode into a wall of sound. Sometimes they never reach that wall of sound, instead crescendoing into swells of guitar and synths, or dropping that away all-together. Calling this album a soundtrack seems wrong, it’s more of a score - one that works with or without its film counterpart. The film itself is an oddly intense experience, following the exploits of a single man during a football game - one which he doesn’t even complete (he’s ejected). As such there are times within the movie where nothing happens, and we simply see Zidane move from place-to-place, waiting for his turn. Much of the music reflects this, showcasing a slow pace with minimal noise; there is no track which explodes with a great amount of energy here. Instead the guitars are restrained, and the piano and drums become focal points.
What Zidane does is take Mogwai’s softer interludes, their quiet comforting moments between storms of noise, and gives them an albums worth in which to shine. You’re relaxed during the listening experience, if not somewhat on-edge. Our sense of a football game is hectic, but that’s when looked at as a whole. Focusing on a single player limits our window and slows the game down, and its nice to see Mogwai venturing into more ambient territories with this album. It’s only in one of the bonus tracks, “Untitled” that we hear sounds from the game itself, mainly whistles and the roar of a distant crowd. Like many of Mogwai’s best tracks its nearly 18 minutes long - swirls of noise tread throughout. Only here does the band let out some pent-up energy.
Zidane is stands out from the rest of Mogwai’s discography and feels more like early This Will Destroy You records, or Sigur Rós in their best moments on ( ). The idea of a slow Mogwai record seems strange, but perhaps that’s the wonder of the thing. It works for the band, and its an interesting soundtrack/score to the film itself.