Spectral Nights Christmas Countdown 2020: The Holy Road choose Mogwai’s ‘Christmas Steps’

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It’s been such a strange year and in the spirit of togetherness and community, we’re going to be counting down to Christmas by sharing a selection of our – and our friends’ – favourite festive songs. Today, Jonathan Stolber from The Holy Road talks about his love of Mogwai and their song, ‘Christmas Steps’.

‘Christmas 1999, and a 19-year-old version of me is wandering Basingstoke high street waiting for the next bus home. Browsing through endless CD & DVD racks in MVC (definitely showing my age now!) I come across the “Now Playing” earphone display. This was 21 years before Covid…..No Spotify. No mobile phones, No social media. These were simpler times.  

For musical discovery there was just the trusted recommendation of Q, Select, NME and Melody Maker – or some spotty post-graduate CD Store Manager – trying to enrol new space cadets onto their musical journey. Sat in the rack this cold Winters day, a black album cover entitled “Come On Die Young.” The LP name itself was provocative enough, but the accompanying artwork depicting what appears to be someone in early stages of demonic possession as seen in ‘The Exorcist’ sealed the deal (I would later read the band where major film fans & this LP cover was intended as a loving homage). I popped the earphones on… 

That Christmas in 1999 I climbed upon starship Mogwai & have been a passenger the last 20 years. There isn’t a lot I can say about Mogwai that a million critics haven’t already written a hundred times more succinct, or which Wikipedia doesn’t cover.  I dare say a certain type of person has a predilection to bond with this sort of music. Five lads from Scotland making magical instrumental music. Their soundscape helped forge a whole new genre of music (post-rock).  

My Christmas tune of choice, as unconventional as it is, is conventionally titled “Christmas Steps” and booked ends the aforementioned LP. Mogwai are good at song titles. They are also masters of silence. This may seem a strange thing to praise when discussing music, but really it takes great skill to utilise silence in music. Somewhat reminiscent of Talk Talk in that respect – “Xmas steps” is a 10 minute masterclass in build, tension and majestic release. It sure has the feels. It also sure also has guitar pedals…which mostly unleash in the final crescendo as drums explode into a time signature change as pensive jolts of post punk jagged guitars splinter all over the tinkling Christmas tinsel… 

Mogwai are wizards casting magic spells in a barren landscape of technological landfill. Jump on in, the water is warm…’

The Holy Road released ‘The Minotaur (Mesto in A-Minor)’ for 2020’s Piano Day. All proceeds donated to Tiny Changes.

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