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Mogwai brings ‘Atomic’ to Hiroshima

'Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise'

TOKYO (TR) – Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima, the first city to be devastated by an atomic bomb. In a delivered at Peace Memorial Park, the president asked for a “world without nuclear weapons.”

Such a sentiment came up short for Stuart Braithwaite, whose band Mogwai is in Japan for a series of shows featuring their latest release “Atomic,” an album based on a soundtrack for a documentary on the nuclear age.

“I think it would be a more effective tribute to the people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki if America stopped having nuclear weapons, to be honest,” said the guitarist and songwriter by phone before the band’s show in Roppongi on Monday. “I suppose it’s a good thing he went to visit.”

Over three days, the Scottish band is delivering its own tribute, playing the 10-track release in the country devastated by two atomic weapons delivered by the U.S. in the summer of 1945.

“It’s probably going to be quite emotional,” he said. “I wouldn’t say ‘nervous’ but I’ve definitely been thinking about it more than a normal performance.”

In its two decades in existence, Mogwai has made a name for itself with mostly instrumental albums that mix slow-building waves of sound with sonic bursts. However, recent releases, including 2014’s “Rave Tapes,” have been more electronic based and accessible.

For “Atomic,” which is taken from the score for the BBC documentary “Atomic — Living in Dread and Promise,” it is back to cascades of sound — but in a more gentle, dream-like fashion.

“The music was written to kind of fit in with the mood and visuals of the documentary,” said Braithwaite. “It definitely lends itself to more contemplative music rather than upbeat music.”

The result is a blend of droning guitars and murmuring synthesizers packaged under ominous titles like “Little Boy” and “U-235.”

On Wednesday, Mogwai will take the stage in Hiroshima. Playing the album in such a setting might appear to be a daunting task, but Braithwaite emphasized that the documentary is quite broad in scope.

“The film isn’t just about the bombings,” he said. “The film, even though it was made to be on television on the anniversary of the bombings, is also about the science around the bombs and some of the positive things that have come through nuclear discoveries. It’s not all morbid.”

Braithwaite hopes that the film can be well received in Japan.

“I would like to think the Japanese people, even those who don’t know our music, would take something from the film, even though I think it might not be the easiest experience,” he said, “but I think it is definitely a tribute to the people who died.”

Note: Mogwai play Osaka Big Cat on May 31 and Hiroshima Club Quattro in Hiroshima on June 1.