Explosions in the Sky
Explosions in the Sky might well be the most successful band you’ve never heard of. With six studio albums and four composed soundtracks behind them, the four piece have developed and honed their own unique style of melodic instrumentalism. The Wilderness, the latest installment from the Texan group, manages to subvert expectations in terms of the band’s sound, while still occupying that strange and unusual place between post-rock, math-rock, and classical genres.
Opening not with melodic electric guitars, but with a steady and smooth electronic beat (don’t worry, the guitars are on the way!), ‘Wilderness’ seems to hint towards the sonority of the earlier ‘Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean’, while managing to stretch into orbiting genres and styles. The track is as perfect an opener as you could hope for, pointing towards musical and instrumental topics which are eventually teased out and explored as the album unfolds.
The subtle introduction of harsh walls of sound dispersed between gentle and melodic guitar themes sets up a firm post-rock style, only to be questioned and overthrown by tracks like the gorgeous ‘Disintegration Anxiety’, a firm dip into the rock genre.
‘Logic of a Dream’ precedes, and is certainly the most cinematic piece on the album, not letting us forget the band’s mastery at creating and exploring vast sonic worlds, teasing out each and every musical theme until the space created lies somewhere between the aural and the visual. Entire worlds are created with each passing track, from the beautiful and melancholic , to the harsh industrialism of heavy timbres.
Elsewhere, the dark pulsating heartbeat of ‘Losing the Light’ builds upon a simple and steady metre, allowing the interaction between guitar, piano, and cello to speak for itself. It’s rare to hear such a simple song that demands so much attention, but with each listen it becomes more and more difficult to pin down what exactly it is that makes it so special. A reviewer’s dream.
The Wilderness doesn’t stop to let you breathe for a second. With each track, from beginning to end, it requires careful consideration. ‘Landing Cliffs’ closes the album even stronger than it started. The thoughtful and meticulous synergy between each melodic channel, along with the surprising introduction of an acoustic guitar, blends together each musical theme of the album; those fantastic walls of noise, the constant droning of electric guitars, supporting block chords on piano, almost contrapuntal melodic motifs, and that something else outside of the music that is consistently pointed to, but almost impossible to explain.
Certainly it is the band’s best since 2003’s The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place. Marking growth rather than change, it is the most mature and considerate effort to date. Experimental, unique, emotional, and cinematic, The Wilderness is truly exceptional.