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Government Commissions
Included in the press packet accompanying these BBC sessions was a New York Times concert review chronicling a recent Irving Plaza show by Mogwai, during which the Scottish five-piece reduced many fans to tears through the sheer emotional power of their music — and entirely without the benefit of lyrics.

That story — as well as these 10 John Peel and Steve Lamacq recordings, which could double as a greatest hits collection — is a powerful reminder not only of Mogwai's prowess and vision, but of music's ability to overwhelm us at times.

Unlike fellow instrumentalist travelers God Speed You Black Emperor or Friends of Dean Martinez, Mogwai eschews cerebral, visual soundscapes, aiming directly for the heart instead. Perhaps more than any other band Mogwai relies on their ability to create gripping crescendos. The three-guitar attack of Stuart Braithwaite, Dominic Aitchinson and John Cummings plies layer after layer of guitar lines atop one another, going from delicate single-note melodies to thunderous, bone-rattling climaxes and back again.

Government Commissions culls two songs from each of Mogwai's full lengths (except for Rock Action, represented solely by "Secret Pint") and the rest from EPs. Reminding people what kind of live band they are, these songs tend to outdo their studio originals; adding the urgency of live performance seems to summon even more tension. The performances range from 1996's "R U Still In 2 It (Instr.)" to 2003's "Stop Coming to My House" and "Hunted By a Freak," and in between you can track the band's maturation.

Eight and 10-minute funereal dirges may be anathema to many, especially those who prefer their rock in familiar, easy-to-digest 3-to-4 minute nuggets. But Mogwai's sweeping epics can be as moving as the greatest pop songs. Those tears, need we remind you, are more often than not shed in joy.

Track to burn: "Hunted By A FreakRating:

Rating: 1/2

-By John Schacht

A Gun Called Tension
A Gun Called Tension
Cold Crush
On paper (which is fortunate, as you're likely reading this on paper, at least until we get our web site up to speed), mixing underground hip-hop and indie rock might seem like mixing Jager with Red Bull: probably a bad idea.

But like that sweet nectar, A Gun Called Tension not only works, it often surprises, which is reason enough to recommend it to fans of either musical style.

Comprised primarily of Bay Area rapper Sean Reveron (A Beta Band collaborator) and Dann Gallucci, the one-time Murder City Devil guitarist and part-time Modest Mouse member, AGCT — in the finest hop-hop tradition — also features (underground) star turns from folks like London garage master Roots Manuva, DJs Andy Sells and Monesa Yamakawa, various Murder City Devils, Airborne Audio, Morgan Henderson of the Blood Brothers, Andrea Zollo (Pretty Girls Make Graves), and others.

Despite this, hip-hop is the Alpha Music here, more often than not overwhelming Gallucci's sheet-metal riffage. There are exceptions, however: "Gold Fronts," which manages a Clash-like political dub vibe, "Treason," an Ian MacKaye-approved shouter, "Document," as ethereal as the R.E.M. album of the same name, and "Electric Chair," an unsteady anthem that reminds one of, gosh, just how good Tricky used to be before he lost Martina Topley-Bird.

Not so much a mash-up as a bash-up, A Gun Called Tension is the sound of two genres duking it out before walking arm in arm down to the local pub, realizing that they're both fighting against the same thing: Complacency.

Track to burn: Electric Chair


-Timothy C. Davis

Lost Marbles & Exploded Evidence
Touch & Go
The joy of Enon derives from the schizophrenic tension between Toko Yasuda's synth-driven pop fixation and John Schmersal's guitar geek noise fetish — pretty much what you'd expect given their backgrounds as ex-members of Blonde Redhead and Brainiac, respectively.

No surprise then that this career-spanning collection of singles, 7-inches and downloads-of-the-month from the band's website features those same seemingly disparate elements doing what they usually do: melding together into a coherent whole.

Master musical scavengers, this Brooklyn-based trio can morph, chameleon-like, into any necessary guise that serves the song. Yasuda's album opener, "Knock That Door," constructs a New Wave dance tune around a bass-line suspiciously like the one on "Away" from the Meat Puppets' Up On the Sun. Schmersal cops the thump-thump-crash drumbeat from Queen's "We Will Rock You" on "Marbles Explode," and on "Fly South" adopts a melody awfully similar to 10cc's "I'm Not In Love."

Even from this group of unconnected songs spanning seven years, Enon's vision is so much their own that all the style-swapping and genre hopping just feels like additional tools in the band's kit.

Track to burn: Fly South


-John Schacht

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