Explosions in the Sky, “The Wilderness”

Explosions in the SkyExplosions_in_the_Sky-2016-The_Wilderness copy
The Wilderness
TEMPORARY RESIDENCE
8/10

With their seventh album, Texas post-rockers Explosions in the Sky continue to build on their fifteen-plus year legacy, in much the same way that their songs subtly but forcefully swell into sonic behemoths of beautiful power and atmosphere. That hasn’t changed with this record, either. These nine tracks—more compositions than songs, more feelings than music—are just as full of tender, delicate nuances as they are heart-bursting crescendos. Yet, unsurprisingly for the work of a band who have continually evolved since the release of their 2000 debut, How Strange, Innocence, The Wilderness also sees the four-piece doing things slightly different.

For a start, it begins with an almost playful tone. While “Wilderness” and “The Ecstatics” are as heartfelt as you’d expect, at the same time they both flow with an undercurrent of whimsy. Yes, they’re instrumental, but there’s something chipper about them, something that eschews Explosions in the Sky’s traditional intensity in order to put a smile on your face. The latter, in particular, yields a heartwarming and triumphant surge of euphoria—the kind that would serve as the climactic resolution of your typical coming-of-age indie flick absolutely perfectly—and this despite the crunch of dark riffs at its center.

Of course, that’s somewhat disingenuous, because there’s nothing clichéd about anything on this record. In fact, its twists and turns are both courageous and startling. Just listen, for instance, to the nightmarish sonics of “Logic of a Dream,” which sound like a million metal spiders scuttling inside your mind until, a little after the midpoint, it switches with little warning into a soothing, graceful melody that’s somehow uplifting and melancholy at the same time. Elsewhere, “Infinite Orbit” is—ironically, given its title—less than three minutes long, but it still manages to circle mystical galaxies through its incessant drumbeat and refined guitar riffs before burning up in a fireball of dramatic urgency. And closer “Landing Cliffs” drifts lazily and sadly in the air, a tear that’s forming but not quite ready to fall.

Essentially, what Explosions in the Sky have done here is create a post-rock album that—willfully, deliberately, and self-consciously—defies the conventions of post-rock. Rather, it stretches its boundaries with a mischievous grin, giving just enough of what’s expected from both the band and the genre while at the same time opening the door to a whole other world that’s, as yet, uncharted, unexplored, and heretofore undiscovered.

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