Thursday, 20 April 2017

Explosions in the Sky - The Wilderness

Explosions in the Sky are an incredible band. I often feel that it took them a while to realise that themselves though; the level of grandeur around their first three albums was minimal (almost non-existent). The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place is musically mind-blowing, but on the surface appears much like a regular album - if you picked it up in a record store, you'd have no warning of quite how huge it would be. On All Of a Sudden I Miss Everyone they finally began to release records as if they were an epic post-rock band - everything about that record screams "I am a big album".

It was a theme that they continued with Take Care Take Care Take Care and this album, The Wilderness. It's strange to focus so much on the packaging, but a lot of time and effort has clearly gone into it, so it feels worth dwelling on. If you picked up this double LP copy of The Wilderness in a record store, you'd know you were in for something big. The gatefold sleeve unfolds in ways I still can't quite fathom and makes a sort of cave of geometric art (see the last picture). The first disc is red and the second clear with a laser etching of the geometric lines found across the artwork. It's a lovely way to present the album.

Musically, I'm a huge fan of The Wilderness. Take Care was a good album, but it didn't do anything dramatically different to what they'd done before. The two before showed they'd found their sound, and they made it their sound. There's nothing wrong with Take Care, but it was too similar without being better. The Wilderness, however, shows the band much further outside of their comfort zone, and the results are brilliant. So many little things are different that it's hard to even put my finger on what makes it so different.

The album has far more songs than we're used to, but a similar duration, resulting in much shorter songs. When a band like Explosions records song that is only three minutes long, you assume it's filler, but these moment somehow contain just as much beautiful music as the longer songs. Infinite Orbit is a great example - it's only two-and-a-half minutes long but still makes my jaw drop. Gone are the quiet-quiet-loud moments that the genre is used to (and the band have historically done so well) and instead we have songs that hit all the same emotions and tell equally interesting stories, but in a totally different way.

It also feels like there is a lot more experimentation with how to make sounds - at the very start of (and a bit throughout) Disintegration Anxiety I have no idea what they're using to make the music, but it's great. John Congleton (of The Paper Chase, and the reason I got into EITS) produced the album, but he also produced Take Care, so I assume that all parties brought fresh ideas to the table.

I'm really pleased that the band released this album, both for them and for me. It would have been easy to play it safe with another expected post-rock album, but instead they treat us with a huge mixture of things that they still somehow manage to craft into sounding beautiful.

Format: Double 12", multi-directional gatefold sleeve, 24"x24" poster, slipcase
Tracks: 9
Cost: £35 new
Bought: Truck Store
When: 04/04/16
Colour: Transparent red, clear
Etching: Laser etching on side D
mp3s: Download code