Mogwai 'Atomic' | Berlin - Pop Kultur Festival


Mogwai opened the Pop Kultur festival in Berlin with the German premiere of their live soundtrack performance for a cinematic screening of Mark Cousins' BBC documentary film 'Storyville - Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise.' 


Berlin is one of my favourite cities because it is at the forefront of two of my greatest interests - music and history - and this film with Mogwai's instrumental music combined the two in a very beautiful and gripping way. 


The focus of the performance lay mainly on watching the documentary rather than the band, as Mogwai were largely in the dark on stage, however the instrumental, and at times almost orchestral music, that this post rock Scottish band provided was really what captivated me for the entire night, and also making the documentary what it was- the live setting allowing dynamics and emotion to be prominent, making the message of the film the most powerful it could be. 


The psychedelic, mystifying daydream music that Mogwai brought to the stage, post rock to mean music sounding like that of Pink Floyd's and such bands, was in itself one of great beauty. A band comprised of four players, they made use of more than the typical instruments, including synths and additional sounds of all sorts I couldn't even pin down what they all were. It was a highly creative composition and arrangement and Mogwai were definitely most suited to do so.


The documentary was about atomic bombs and the affect such a phenomenon has had on its people in its history. The most heart wrenching and thought provoking moment in the film was a clip of a little girl asking 'Mr President, why did we drop a nuclear bomb?' - a clip that was repeated throughout the film. The film highlighted the split between the people and the government and the disagreement and disapproval the people had of these actions. The film was comprised of exclusive clips from archives that aren't often seen, so I definitely felt like I saw a new side to this nuclear war, with not so much an emphasis on the political motivations, but an emphasis on the people being bombed and the affect, the fear, false hope, and the emphasis on saving their children's future. 


Seeing this soundtrack as a live concert is definitely the most effective way. It really shows how pivotal Mogwai's music is in the power of this film, not to forget the content of the film itself making you reflect on the politicians of the world and the wars that shadow the 20th century. 


I never thought music could be used so powerfully to reflect on history, and that Mogwai so successfully carried out this challenge is impressive and only shows what great musician they are - not to mention, a rock band to captivate an audience with only instrumental music is also a whole new challenge in itself!