The post-rock veterans return to claim their rightful position. The Wilderness is a reminder of just how grand, intimate and emotive Explosions in the Sky can be. Their instrumental, and experimental, rock is formed from tight, innovative playing and the dense interplay of textures and sounds. This is their first non-soundtrack album since 2011 and comes on very fancy double vinyl LP.
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Music aside, I’ve always liked the way Explosions In The Sky explain themselves: their album and song titles have often read like textbook post-rock, but the second-gen pioneers deftly used the genre’s convoluted language to create real pretty images. I mean, come on: ‘All Of A Sudden, I Miss Everyone’? What a horribly lovely thought. It’s not their fault every band of the future both sounded and spoke like them: I don’t blame them for Red Sparowes’ ridiculousness, for instance, but I do understand why so many post-rock bands wanted to capture their ideals -- bland music, sure, but what words.
Let’s talk music, though, because you can’t get along on words alone, especially if your music’s instrumental. The last time this band were truly impressive was the monolithic and rather landmarking ‘The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead, Place’ (although, if you want to look at the last time they just made a great fucking record, that’s the quietly pressed ‘The Rescue’, whose songs have softer dynamics and quieter guitars). I’ve read comparisons that trace ‘The Wilderness’ back to those early EITS days, as a record of boldly trembling guitar set-pieces, but I see a removal from that. The sound here feels informed by side-project Inventions; there are electronic manoeuvres, twinkling piano and a lot more ambient set-up involved in upending the long tradition of tonally gorgeous guitar figures. It’s a nice combo: it feels expected, for sure, but also ruminate over. It’s just nice to hear this band really thinking about their plays
EITS have only made soundtracks since ‘11, which would be a big deal if they weren’t already the world’s most cinematic band. Still, this record does suggest the band are exercising the most creative freedom they’ve had in a long while: “Logic of a Dream” comes out of nowhere, a blast of fuzzed chords, krauty synth and splintering drums that completely re-routes the record at the flick of a switch -- it goes discordant, then resolves in gorgeously plucked strings and a cosying bassline. It’s post-rock with all the standard structures rearranged, climaxing, falling apart, comforting and resolving several times over. It’s a genuine surprise, and making surprising music, when you’re this band, and it’s two thousand and sixteen, is the greatest heist story ever told. Most importantly, though, 'The Wilderness' is really fucking beautiful, and the fact I don't care that it's been done before makes it a success.
Also, the start of "Disintegration Anxiety" sounds like the Imperial March. What's up.
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