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Explosions in the Sky reemerge in ‘The Wilderness’

| Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Explosions in the Sky bannerOlivia Mikkelsen

Explosions in the Sky’s purely instrumental tracks build emotionally epic atmospheres. The lack of lyrics imparts artistic liberty to the listener, allowing us to independently craft a song’s meaning and story. Song titles and melodies lay the foundation, but it is left to the listener to envision the details. This phenomenon, which allows fans to develop strong bonds to the music, is central to Explosion’s genius. Their latest album “The Wilderness” is no exception to this pattern.

Explosions in the Sky formed in Austin, Texas, after drummer Chris Hrasky posted a flyer looking to form a “sad, triumphant rock band.” Joined by Mark Smith, Michael James and Munaf Rayani, the band emerged nationally after composing the score for the 2004 film adaption of “Friday Night Lights.” The band’s growing popularity coupled with its incredible live performances poised them to become one of the modern leaders of the post-rock genre that includes acts such as Mogwai and The Echelon Effect.

The band’s April 1 release is like the warm embrace of a dear friend not seen for a long time. Although the band has composed three movie soundtracks since their 2011 release of “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care,” their sixth non-soundtrack album serves as an excellent reemergence of independent Explosions — not bound to the storyline of a movie script. The album illustrates Explosions’ talent for tugging at heartstrings while simultaneously painting unique landscapes that are somehow novel, yet also nostalgic.

While this album shows significant experimentation, there is no question that the band’s distinctive guitar-driven symphonies are alive and well. Those intrigued by the band’s evolution will enjoy “Losing the Light.” The song’s heartbeat-like synth-bass rhythm slowly drifts into an ambient, blissful duet of piano and strings in sync. The song features very little guitar, perhaps the band’s most recognizable cornerstone. For listeners longing for Explosions’ booming guitar and bounding drum crescendos, “Tangle Formations” and “Infinite Orbit” are sure to satisfy.

One of the challenges with “The Wilderness” is to uncouple it from the band’s recent string of soundtrack compositions. Explosions has spent more time than ever before writing music for the big screen, and one questions whether they are able to depart from this form of composition. The most likely case for this argument is the album single “Logic of a Dream.” The lulling reverberated guitar intro is followed by a blissfully booming synth-colored dream world. The curious setting suddenly turns dark as a marching drumbeat and distorted guitar transport the listener to a nightmare where we might be a soldier forging into an ominous battle. It is only a matter of time before this scene fades away and we are again comforted by a playful guitar and harp melody. The title of the song and its progression tell it all: It is a seven-minute exploration of the confusing disconnections of our dreams and the unfortunate result is a song that feels too scripted for Explosions.

Stretching from mid April to late October, the Austin natives will embark on a world tour that includes stops in Asia, the United States and Europe. Local fans can check Explosions out at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, where they will be playing Sept. 10.

Tracks: “Tangle Formations,” “Disintegration Anxiety,” “Colors in Space”

If you like: Mogwai, The Echelon Effect, The Album Leaf, Tycho

4/5 Shamrocks
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