Explosions in the Sky, “Big Bend”

Explosions in the Sky
Big Bend (An Original Soundtrack for Public Television)

Forever beloved for their softly strung and cloudily atmospheric theme music to the earnest, Texas-based Friday Night Lights’ 2004 movie and ensuing television series, Austin’s instrumental pop ensemble Explosions in the Sky can’t seem to get out of the Lone Star State. Good. This soundscape tribute to Big Bend National Park—whether as an ominously sauntering score to the PBS documentary, Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas, or as a standalone sonic exercise in effusive beauty—works magically in portraying its grey and green mountains, its verdant knolls, or providing a chill sonic tonic with nature as its somnolent guide.

I may never have seen Big Bend, yet through Explosions’ introspective, wash-over ambient swells, their percussive tics (on “Bird Family” and the vibrantly and hastened rhythmic “Nightfall” in particular), and their guitar-strewn post-rock tangle on songs (or mini movements) such as “Rains Legacy,” it’s as if I’m entrenched in Texas’ rolling hills. For all its talk of atmosphere and connection to what must be a peaceful reserve, as any hiker or climber will warn, it’s dangerous in the hills. To sound off for that, moments such as “Owl Hunting” provide ample drama and a tinge of violence in its propulsive noir-esque noise.

Like most of the soundtracks in their catalog (and there are more than a few, including 2014’s rangy Manglehorn), ominous and dark specters appear as often as pleasant lulls and gentle streaks of light. And just like nature itself, the improvisationalists of Explosions in the Sky never make it clear when thunder and sun will strike.


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