bright light ! discog

'special moves' & 'burning' 23rd august 2010

'special moves' is mogwai's first live album
recorded at three brooklyn shows in april 2009.
'burning' is a live film recorded at the same shows.
a number of formats were released. further details below.
the artwork was designed by aidan moffat.


'burning' live film

  • the precipice
  • i'm jim morrison, i'm dead
  • hunted by a freak
  • like herod
  • new paths to helicon pt.1
  • mogwai fear satan
  • scotland's shame
  • batcat
    plus a number of brief excerpts of unreleased mogwai tracks as incidental music

    'special moves' live album (cd version)

  • i'm jim morrison, i'm dead
  • friend of the night
  • hunted by a freak
  • mogwai fear satan
  • cody
  • you don't know jesus
  • i know you are but what am i?
  • i love you, i'm going to blow up your school
  • 2 rights make 1 wrong
  • like herod
  • glasgow megasnake

    'special moves' live album (triple vinyl version)

  • i'm jim morrison, i'm dead
  • friend of the night
  • hunted by a freak
  • mogwai fear satan
  • cody
  • you don't know jesus
  • i know you are but what am i?
  • i love you, i'm going to blow up your school
  • 2 rights make 1 wrong
  • like herod
  • glasgow megasnake
  • yes! i am a long way from home
  • scotland's shame
  • new paths to helicon part 1
  • batcat
  • thank you space expert
  • the precipice

    physical formats

    'special moves' (deluxe box set)
    rock action [rockact48]
    17-track triple vinyl (see above for tracklist) + 'burning' dvd + signed poster + cd/dvd set + embroidered patch
    first edition (with signed poster) limited to 1400 copies worldwide. further editions will not be signed

    'special moves' (cd + dvd)
    rock action [rockact48cd] | hostess (japan) [hse30229] | spunk (australia) [ura339]
    11-track cd (see above for tracklist) + 'burning' dvd
    includes free download of the extra six tracks included on the triple vinyl version

    'special moves' (double vinyl + dvd)
    rock action [???]
    11-track double vinyl (same tracklist as cd version) + 'burning' dvd
    includes free download of the extra six tracks included on the triple vinyl version
    only available in the usa? further info to follow.

    the dvd includes an additional 12-minute bonus feature: 'mogwai fear satan: live at reims'. this was previously posted on la blogotheque in early 2009 and shot at la cartonnerie, reims on 14th feb 2009.

    production/recording notes

    mogwai played three shows at music hall of williamsburg, brooklyn, ny in april 2009:
    27th april 2009 | 28th april 2009 | 29th april 2009

    multi-track audio recordings of these shows were made by tomas marsh and mixed by john cummings. 17 tracks were selected for the 'special moves' live album, and 8 of these were also used for the finished cut of the 'burning' film. the mixes used in the film are identical to those used on the live album.

    the shows were filmed by vincent moon and nathanaël le scouarnec. under the working title 'burning', an initial 50-minute cut of the resulting film was screened at the copenhagen documentary film festival on 7th november 2009, and again on 13th november 2009 (the latter of these being the 'official premiere', with stuart braithwaite dj-ing). it should be noted that a number of the tracks are presented incomplete in the film.

    following the two copenhagen screenings, the uk premiere of 'burning' took place at gft on 28th feb 2010. the film was introduced by the directors and members of mogwai. preceding the film was a selection of videos from the rock action records roster including errors, desalvo, part chimp and remember remember. the screening was followed by a special live dj set with band members at mono, glasgow.

    numerous press and public screenings of 'burning' took place through the first half of 2010, culminating in a series of north american screenings during the month of release (august 2010).

    the release of this package was delayed a number of times whilst a number of edits were made to 'burning' before the final version was agreed. initially scheduled for january 2010, then moved to june 2010, the eventual release date was 20th august (australia) / 23rd august (uk/europe) / 24th august (north america) / 25th august (japan)

    three podcasts, consisting of stuart discussing the making of the film and album with eddie pearson, were made available via itunes in the run-up to release.

    from [vincent moon's blog]:

    when mogwai, with whom i already collaborated on a short piece the year before, adelia i want to love (co-directed by teresa eggers) asked me to film their ny shows to make a live dvd, the challenge was very exciting though - mogwai being definitely the band you can not film. mogwai is sound, mogwai is emptiness of image, mogwai is something in your head when you close your eyes. what could we (with co-director and amazing editor nathanael le scouarnec) add to a mogwai live experience, to such an organic feeling?
    the challenge was of course lost before - but the result, ‘burning’, a 50min movie to be released soon with a live album of the scottish band, is something i am really happy with - we tried to push the limits of representations to a certain radical point, an almost hypnotic experience. a film to be seen on big screens with big sound for sure. better than a 3d experience dudes.


    speaking of the release, frontman stuart braithwaite told that it wasn't the first time the band have attempted to record a live dvd.

    "we actually tried to do something like this before, in japan on the 'mr beast' tour (in 2006)," he explained. "we flew out all the recording equipment and set it up for the show, only to find out afterwards that one of the guitar mics wasn't plugged in! so we had, like, four fifths of mogwai on it. i remember hearing it and thinking, 'my guitar sounds terrible there, why's it so bad?!' and then someone came in and told me the sound was actually coming through the vocal mic because no one had mic'd the guitar up!"

    recording 'burning' was far easier according to braithwaite, not least because of director moon, whom the frontman was full of praise for.

    "he's a really good guy and i think he really gets what we're all about. he's an eccentric guy, but he's really hard working and he's got an amazing outlook," he said, adding: "it's not a traditional music film...there's a few abstract things of us walking around new york and a few little montages. there's no speaking in it at all, either."

    track recording dates

    some of the tracks were played at all three shows, but it's possible to give an exact recording date for others:

    - i'm jim morrison, i'm dead - all three shows
    - friend of the night - all three shows
    - hunted by a freak - all three shows
    - mogwai fear satan - 27th or 29th
    - cody - 28th only
    - you don't know jesus - 29th only
    - i know you are but what am i? - 29th only
    - i love you, i'm going to blow up your school - 28th only
    - 2 rights make 1 wrong - stuart's outro suggests 27th
    - like herod - 27th or 28th
    - glasgow megasnake - 29th only
    - yes! i am a long way from home - 28th only
    - scotland's shame - all three shows
    - new paths to helicon part 1 - 27th or 29th
    - batcat - 27th or 28th
    - thank you space expert - 27th only
    - the precipice - 29th only

    press release


    this film, burning, is just one of a thousand mogwai concert films to have ever been made. no, in fact, tens of thousands. how many people have seen the scots rock band play live since they formed in glasgow in 1995? that many, anyway. from sci-fi dystopia to kitchen-sink drama, everyone who experiences this band in concert will make a brand new movie in their head every time.

    mogwai create their own instrumental soundtrack to the imagination, and it’s up to us what we do with it. this isn’t a band who tell us what to think, this is a band who show us how much we can feel.

    for directors vincent moon and nathanaël le scouarnec (rem: supernatural superserious; take-away shows), the three night residency they recorded at brooklyn’s music hall of williamsburg in early 2009 presented itself as a modern urban noir thriller, a black-and-white journey which starts on the same electrifying new york streets bernard hermann scored for martin scorsese. manholes hiss steam, taxi headlights flare in the camera lens and strangers wait in street corner shadows.

    behind it all, ‘a precipice’ rises into life, which is as good a place as any to start. a mogwai gig can often feel like climbing a mountain, or falling off one: whichever feels more likely to remind you that you’re alive.

    in grainy black and white, the show unfolds. the band make their way through a rain-washed manhattan as ‘i’m jim morrison, i’m dead’ hovers like a commuter’s mp3 soundtrack in the background; louche new york hipsters congregate before the show as the familiar echoes of ‘hunted by a freak’ kick in; the beatific, nodding faces of the crowd inside are contrasted with the going-to-sleep streets outside.

    meanwhile, the finest moments of one of the most individual live bands of our time are perfectly captured in grainy close-up: ‘like herod’s wall of noise; the dreamy ‘new paths to helicon pt 1’; ‘mogwai fear satan’ (speaking of bernard hermann, there’s a shock worthy of psycho in this song); the funereal ‘scotland’s shame’; strident finale ‘batcat’.

    yet this is only half of the package. it also includes special moves, an eleven-track (seventeen if you get the vinyl or download versions) live album. for a band who come to such epic, monumental life in the live arena, it might be surprising to some that this is the first official live compilation they’ve ever released.

    in the words of mogwai’s stuart braithwaite, “i don’t think we’re a very ‘greatest hits’ kind of band, but if we ever did release one, we’ve already decided to call it ‘the sh*test p*sh’. i think that fact alone means we can never go through with it.” which means, in other words, that special moves is probably the closest we’ll get to a ‘best of’ from them.

    moon and le scouarnec call their film an “experience of the senses… a lifetime of feelings in just one night.” you may prefer the quote which opens the band’s debut album mogwai young team and which appears during the film as an intro to batcat, a recording of a norwegian fan reading a review of the band: “this music is bigger than words, wider than pictures; if the stars had a sound, they would sound like this.”

    or the words of an excitable young english woman speaking over the closing credits: “it’s like acid, but there’s no comedown.” yes. it’s exactly like that.



    live-album/concert-film combos tend to mark certain memorable occasions: significant anniversaries, a special performance in a historic venue or a massive world tour with an obscenely expensive stage show. mogwai's first live package-- a concert recording, special moves, and a dvd companion, burning, with a different tracklist-- does not adhere to any of the above criteria. on the surface, it's simply a document of a band in their 14th year, touring behind their least remarkable album to date-- and as far as mythic locations go, the music hall of williamsburg ain't exactly pompeii. judging by the wide array of physical/digital purchasing options available on the band's website, the real purpose of this release is to test out new e-commerce possibilities for the band.

    however, as special moves handily attests, mogwai don't require additional context to create a sense of an event-- for the veteran scottish post-rock quintet, even an ordinary night on the job is full of extraordinary moments. and with 2006's mr. beast and 2008's the hawk is howling being greeted with a more mixed reception compared to the band's earth-quaking early releases, special moves-- which pulls at least one track from all six mogwai albums, but no more than two-- strategically positions the band's latter-day material among the old warhorses to build a set list that gradually intensifies and explodes like the band's best instrumental epics. as such, special moves represents more than a recording of a specific 2009 concert series in brooklyn-- it also functions as a compact but thorough career retrospective, and a convenient entry point for newcomers into the band's formidable discography.

    the stark, high-contrast black-and-white images presented by directors vincent moon and nathanaël le scouarnec in burning may have been intended as a visual analogue for the extremes mogwai often favor in their music, but the song selection here provides the band with ample opportunity to explore the space between serenity and cacophony. what's especially impressive about special moves is how mogwai deploy their few vocal tracks to alternately heighten and diffuse tension. following the ominous scene setters of hawk's "i'm jim morrison, i'm dead" and mr. beast's "friend of the night", the show-- and, particularly, the audience-- really come to life with happy songs for happy people's "hunted by a freak", whose eerily obscured vocal melody is crucial to the song's gilded, mountainous majesty; by contrast, the band respectively positions two of their most affecting ballads ("cody", "2 rights make 1 wrong") next to two of their most sadistically savage ("mogwai fear satan", "like herod"), as if to counter the band's reputation as devious, smart-assed noisemakers. mogwai also seem eager to challenge the notion that their best work is 10 years behind them: they close out special moves with a rampaging version of mr. beast's "glasgow mega-snake" that makes the preceding, suitably apocalyptic reading of "like herod" seem like a mere warm-up exercise.

    — stuart berman, august 23, 2010 [score: 8.2]

    review from aquarius records, 11th september 2010

    we love mogwai. and we probably always will. their young team record still ranks at the very tippy top of the slow burning, slow building, quiet loud quiet loud, post rock ouvre, and a million bands since, trying their damnedest to do the same thing, haven't dulled or diminished that love at all. in fact if anything, all it did was enforce how genius these guys really are. and while they're in the unenviable position of having a ridiculously iconic record that all subsequent records are inevitably compared to, when one can ignore that looming sonic spectre, then all of their records rule. intense, and emotional, epic and majestic, heavy and melodic, soundtracky and cinematic. it really is remarkable listening to mogwai and then hearing pelican or isis or any of the other bands who do something similar, and while mogwai are maybe not better, they are special, and unique, with a sound that impossibly manages to sound only like them.

    special moves is a documentary / live concert film, gorgeously shot, featuring selections from throughout their entire career, from big crashing bombastic epics, to brooding moody meanders, their live sound as lush and lovely as their records proper. all black and white, stark, high contrast live footage, interspersed with shots of random people on the streets, rain swept cities, crowd shots, sound checks, empty clubs, blurred lights, close ups of fingers and strings, all very impressionistic, and it all suits the music so perfectly. it includes some bonus live footage, which looks just as good as the movie.

    and there's also a soundtrack disc, featuring all the tracks from the movie and then some, more of that epic mogwai majesty, not necessarily all that different from the recorded versions, but heck, any excuse for more mogwai is fine by us, and some of the tracks do get reworked a bit, but if you've been hankering for some smoldering, swelling post rock quiet/loud epicness, this should hit the spot. also includes a bonus download of 6 more live tracks!


    we find that live performance recordings tend to be hit or miss. half a concert's mojo is based on the fact that you are there, in the flesh, able to absorb all the intricacies that make up the show. this ends up being the downfall of most recordings -- the detachment diminishes the power of it all, making it a tad boring to be watching from your couch. vincent moon and nataniel la souanec's burning, which documents three sold-out mogwai shows in brooklyn in april 2009, breaks through this barrier, capturing as close to a full concert experience as one can from a video camera. what results is an enjoyable 50-minute journey into the world of mogwai.

    we've seen mogwai in the past and love what the post-rockers can do to command an audience. there's a certain weight and power that cascades from their performances, translating into a mesmerized crowd. this seems to be burning's focus, as shots of the band performing are mixed with endless cuts to the crowd in their dazed state. much like the music of mogwai, there's a certain ebb and flow to the film as it crescendos into chaotic, strobe-like quick-cuts, only to recede back to calmness, over and over again. for better or worse, there are no interviews in burning. it is, for all intents and purposes, all about the music and its effect on the audience. whatever interest you might have in hearing the band discuss its artistic process, influences, or beer of choice quickly diminishes once you realize the point. after all, with the essential absence of lyrics in their work, it's always been about the music for mogwai.

    burning's effectiveness lies in its relative short run-time. the film falls perfectly in the sweet spot of a performance recording, very far from redundancy or overkill. a statement is made and then it's over. the way it should be.
    norman records
    Winnipeg Sun
    Drowned In Sound
    Onion AV Club